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FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD

by Thomas Hardy

Preface

In reprinting this story for a new edition I am reminded
that it was in the chapters of "Far from the Madding Crowd"
as they appeared month by month in a popular magazinethat
I first ventured to adopt the word "Wessex" from the pages
of early English historyand give it a fictitious
significance as the existing name of the district once
included in that extinct kingdom. The series of novels I
projected being mainly of the kind called localthey seemed
to require a territorial definition of some sort to lend
unity to their scene. Finding that the area of a single
country did not afford a canvas large enough for this
purposeand that there were objections to an invented name
I disinterred the old one. The press and the public were
kind enough to welcome the fanciful planand willingly
joined me in the anachronism of imagining a Wessex
population living under Queen Victoria; -- a modern Wessex
of railwaysthe penny postmowing and reaping machines
union workhouseslucifer matcheslabourers who could read
and writeand National school children. But I believe I am
correct in stating thatuntil the existence of this
contemporaneous Wessex was announced in the present story
in 1874it had never been heard ofand that the
expressiona Wessex peasantor "a Wessex custom" would
theretofore have been taken to refer to nothing later in
date than the Norman Conquest.

I did not anticipate that this application of the word to a
modern use would extend outside the chapters of my own
chronicles. But the name was soon taken up elsewhere as a
local designation. The first to do so was the now defunct
Examinerwhichin the impression bearing date July 15
1876entitled one of its articles "The Wessex Labourer
the article turning out to be no dissertation on farming
during the Heptarchy, but on the modern peasant of the
south-west counties, and his presentation in these stories.

Since then the appellation which I had thought to reserve to
the horizons and landscapes of a merely realistic dreamcountry,
has become more and more popular as a practical
definition; and the dream-country has, by degrees,
solidified into a utilitarian region which people can go to,
take a house in, and write to the papers from. But I ask
all good and gentle readers to be so kind as to forget this,
and to refuse steadfastly to believe that there are any
inhabitants of a Victorian Wessex outside the pages of this
and the companion volumes in which they were first
discovered.

Moreover, the village called Weatherbury, wherein the scenes


of the present story of the series are for the most part
laid, would perhaps be hardly discernible by the explorer,
without help, in any existing place nowadays; though at the
time, comparatively recent, at which the tale was written, a
sufficient reality to meet the descriptions, both of
backgrounds and personages, might have been traced easily
enough. The church remains, by great good fortune,
unrestored and intact, and a few of the old houses; but the
ancient malt-house, which was formerly so characteristic of
the parish, has been pulled down these twenty years; also
most of the thatched and dormered cottages that were once
lifeholds. The game of prisoner's base, which not so long
ago seemed to enjoy a perennial vitality in front of the
worn-out stocks, may, so far as I can say, be entirely
unknown to the rising generation of schoolboys there. The
practice of divination by Bible and key, the regarding of
valentines as things of serious import, the shearing-supper,
and the harvest-home, have, too, nearly disappeared in the
wake of the old houses; and with them have gone, it is said,
much of that love of fuddling to which the village at one
time was notoriously prone. The change at the root of this
has been the recent supplanting of the class of stationary
cottagers, who carried on the local traditions and humours,
by a population of more or less migratory labourers, which
has led to a break of continuity in local history, more
fatal than any other thing to the preservation of legend,
folk-lore, close inter-social relations, and eccentric
individualities. For these the indispensable conditions of
existence are attachment to the soil of one particular spot
by generation after generation.

T.H.
February 1895

CHAPTER I

DESCRIPTION OF FARMER OAK -- AN INCIDENT

WHEN Farmer Oak smiled, the corners of his mouth spread till
they were within an unimportant distance of his ears, his
eyes were reduced to chinks, and diverging wrinkles appeared
round them, extending upon his countenance like the rays in
a rudimentary sketch of the rising sun.

His Christian name was Gabriel, and on working days he was a
young man of sound judgment, easy motions, proper dress, and
general good character. On Sundays he was a man of misty
views, rather given to postponing, and hampered by his best
clothes and umbrella: upon the whole, one who felt himself
to occupy morally that vast middle space of Laodicean
neutrality which lay between the Communion people of the
parish and the drunken section, -- that is, he went to
church, but yawned privately by the time the con-gegation
reached the Nicene creed, and thought of what there would be
for dinner when he meant to be listening to the sermon.
Or, to state his character as it stood in the scale of public
opinion, when his friends and critics were in tantrums, he
was considered rather a bad man; when they were pleased, he
was rather a good man; when they were neither, he was a man


whose moral colour was a kind of pepper-and-salt mixture.

Since he lived six times as many working-days as Sundays,
Oak's appearance in his old clothes was most peculiarly his
own -- the mental picture formed by his neighbours in
imagining him being always dressed in that way. He wore a
low-crowned felt hat, spread out at the base by tight
jamming upon the head for security in high winds, and a coat
like Dr. Johnson's; his lower extremities being encased in
ordinary leather leggings and boots emphatically large,
affording to each foot a roomy apartment so constructed that
any wearer might stand in a river all day long and know
nothing of damp -- their maker being a conscientious man who
endeavoured to compensate for any weakness in his cut by
unstinted dimension and solidity.

Mr. Oak carried about him, by way of watch, what may be
called a small silver clock; in other words, it was a watch
as to shape and intention, and a small clock as to size.
This instrument being several years older than Oak's
grandfather, had the peculiarity of going either too fast or
not at all. The smaller of its hands, too, occasionally
slipped round on the pivot, and thus, though the minutes
were told with precision, nobody could be quite certain of
the hour they belonged to. The stopping peculiarity of his
watch Oak remedied by thumps and shakes, and he escaped any
evil consequences from the other two defects by constant
comparisons with and observations of the sun and stars, and
by pressing his face close to the glass of his neighbours'
windows, till he could discern the hour marked by the greenfaced
timekeepers within. It may be mentioned that Oak's
fob being difficult of access, by reason of its somewhat
high situation in the waistband of his trousers (which also
lay at a remote height under his waistcoat), the watch was
as a necessity pulled out by throwing the body to one side,
compressing the mouth and face to a mere mass of ruddy flesh
on account of the exertion required, and drawing up the
watch by its chain, like a bucket from a well.

But some thoughtful persons, who had seen him walking across
one of his fields on a certain December morning -- sunny and
exceedingly mild -- might have regarded Gabriel Oak in other
aspects than these. In his face one might notice that many
of the hues and curves of youth had tarried on to manhood:
there even remained in his remoter crannies some relics of
the boy. His height and breadth would have been sufficient
to make his presence imposing, had they been exhibited with
due consideration. But there is a way some men have, rural
and urban alike, for which the mind is more responsible than
flesh and sinew: it is a way of curtailing their dimensions
by their manner of showing them. And from a quiet modesty
that would have become a vestal which seemed continually to
impress upon him that he had no great claim on the world's
room, Oak walked unassumingly and with a faintly perceptible
bend, yet distinct from a bowing of the shoulders. This may
be said to be a defect in an individual if he depends for
his valuation more upon his appearance than upon his
capacity to wear well, which Oak did not.

He had just reached the time of life at which young" is
ceasing to be the prefix of "man" in speaking of one.
He was at the brightest period of masculine growthfor his
intellect and his emotions were clearly separated: he had
passed the time during which the influence of youth


indiscriminately mingles them in the character of impulse
and he had not yet arrived at the stage wherein they become
united againin the character of prejudiceby the
influence of a wife and family. In shorthe was
twenty-eightand a bachelor.

The field he was in this morning sloped to a ridge called
Norcombe Hill. Through a spur of this hill ran the highway
between Emminster and Chalk-Newton. Casually glancing over
the hedgeOak saw coming down the incline before him an
ornamental spring waggonpainted yellow and gaily marked
drawn by two horsesa waggoner walking alongside bearing a
whip perpendicularly. The waggon was laden with household
goods and window plantsand on the apex of the whole sat a
womanyoung and attractive. Gabriel had not beheld the
sight for more than half a minutewhen the vehicle was
brought to a standstill just beneath his eyes.

The tailboard of the waggon is gone, Miss,said the
waggoner.

Then I heard it fall,said the girlin a softthough not
particularly low voice. "I heard a noise I could not
account for when we were coming up the hill."

I'll run back.

Do,she answered.

The sensible horses stood -- perfectly stilland the
waggoner's steps sank fainter and fainter in the distance.

The girl on the summit of the load sat motionless
surrounded by tables and chairs with their legs upwards
backed by an oak settleand ornamented in front by pots of
geraniumsmyrtlesand cactusestogether with a caged
canary -- all probably from the windows of the house just
vacated. There was also a cat in a willow basketfrom the
partly-opened lid of which she gazed with half-closed eyes
and affectionately-surveyed the small birds around.

The handsome girl waited for some time idly in her place
and the only sound heard in the stillness was the hopping of
the canary up and down the perches of its prison. Then she
looked attentively downwards. It was not at the birdnor
at the cat; it was at an oblong package tied in paperand
lying between them. She turned her head to learn if the
waggoner were coming. He was not yet in sight; and her eyes
crept back to the packageher thoughts seeming to run upon
what was inside it. At length she drew the article into her
lapand untied the paper covering; a small swing lookingglass
was disclosedin which she proceeded to survey
herself attentively. She parted her lips and smiled.

It was a fine morningand the sun lighted up to a scarlet
glow the crimson jacket she woreand painted a soft lustre
upon her bright face and dark hair. The myrtlesgeraniums
and cactuses packed around her were fresh and greenand at
such a leafless season they invested the whole concern of
horseswaggonfurnitureand girl with a peculiar vernal
charm. What possessed her to indulge in such a performance
in the sight of the sparrowsblackbirdsand unperceived
farmer who were alone its spectators-- whether the smile
began as a factitious oneto test her capacity in that art


-- nobody knows; it ended certainly in a real smile. She
blushed at herselfand seeing her reflection blushblushed
the more.

The change from the customary spot and necessary occasion of
such an act -- from the dressing hour in a bedroom to a time
of travelling out of doors -- lent to the idle deed a
novelty it did not intrinsically possess. The picture was a
delicate one. Woman's prescriptive infirmity had stalked
into the sunlightwhich had clothed it in the freshness of
an originality. A cynical inference was irresistible by
Gabriel Oak as he regarded the scenegenerous though he
fain would have been. There was no necessity whatever for
her looking in the glass. She did not adjust her hator
pat her hairor press a dimple into shapeor do one thing
to signify that any such intention had been her motive in
taking up the glass. She simply observed herself as a fair
product of Nature in the feminine kindher thoughts seeming
to glide into far-off though likely dramas in which men
would play a part -- vistas of probable triumphs -- the
smiles being of a phase suggesting that hearts were imagined
as lost and won. Stillthis was but conjectureand the
whole series of actions was so idly put forth as to make it
rash to assert that intention had any part in them at all.

The waggoner's steps were heard returning. She put the
glass in the paperand the whole again into its place.

When the waggon had passed onGabriel withdrew from his
point of espialand descending into the roadfollowed the
vehicle to the turnpike-gate some way beyond the bottom of
the hillwhere the object of his contemplation now halted
for the payment of toll. About twenty steps still remained
between him and the gatewhen he heard a dispute. It was a
difference concerning twopence between the persons with the
waggon and the man at the toll-bar.

Mis'ess's niece is upon the top of the things, and she says
that's enough that I've offered ye, you great miser, and she
won't pay any more.These were the waggoner's words.

Very well; then mis'ess's niece can't pass,said the
turnpike-keeperclosing the gate.

Oak looked from one to the other of the disputantsand fell
into a reverie. There was something in the tone of twopence
remarkably insignificant. Threepence had a definite value
as money -- it was an appreciable infringement on a day's
wagesandas sucha higgling matter; but twopence -"
Here he said, stepping forward and handing twopence to
the gatekeeper; let the young woman pass." He looked up at
her then; she heard his wordsand looked down.

Gabriel's features adhered throughout their form so exactly
to the middle line between the beauty of St. John and the
ugliness of Judas Iscariotas represented in a window of
the church he attendedthat not a single lineament could be
selected and called worthy either of distinction or
notoriety. The red-jacketed and dark-haired maiden seemed
to think so toofor she carelessly glanced over himand
told her man to drive on. She might have looked her thanks
to Gabriel on a minute scalebut she did not speak them;
more probably she felt nonefor in gaining her a passage he
had lost her her pointand we know how women take a favour


of that kind.

The gatekeeper surveyed the retreating vehicle. "That's a
handsome maid he said to Oak.

But she has her faults said Gabriel.

Truefarmer."

And the greatest of them is -- well, what it is always.

Beating people down? ay, 'tis so.

O no.

What, then?

Gabrielperhaps a little piqued by the comely traveller's
indifferenceglanced back to where he had witnessed her
performance over the hedgeand saidVanity.

CHAPTER II

NIGHT -- THE FLOCK -- AN INTERIOR -- ANOTHER INTERIOR

IT was nearly midnight on the eve of St. Thomas'sthe
shortest day in the year. A desolating wind wandered from
the north over the hill whereon Oak had watched the yellow
waggon and its occupant in the sunshine of a few days
earlier.

Norcombe Hill -- not far from lonely Toller-Down -- was one
of the spots which suggest to a passer-by that he is in the
presence of a shape approaching the indestructible as nearly
as any to be found on earth. It was a featureless convexity
of chalk and soil -- an ordinary specimen of those smoothlyoutlined
protuberances of the globe which may remain
undisturbed on some great day of confusionwhen far grander
heights and dizzy granite precipices topple down.

The hill was covered on its northern side by an ancient and
decaying plantation of beecheswhose upper verge formed a
line over the crestfringing its arched curve against the
skylike a mane. To-night these trees sheltered the
southern slope from the keenest blastswhich smote the wood
and floundered through it with a sound as of grumblingor
gushed over its crowning boughs in a weakened moan. The dry
leaves in the ditch simmered and boiled in the same breezes
a tongue of air occasionally ferreting out a fewand
sending them spinning across the grass. A group or two of
the latest in date amongst the dead multitude had remained
till this very mid-winter time on the twigs which bore them
and in falling rattled against the trunks with smart taps.

Between this half-wooded half naked hilland the vague
still horizon that its summit indistinctly commandedwas a
mysterious sheet of fathomless shade -- the sounds from
which suggested that what it concealed bore some reduced
resemblance to features here. The thin grassesmore or
less coating the hillwere touched by the wind in breezes
of differing powersand almost of differing natures -- one


rubbing the blades heavilyanother raking them piercingly
another brushing them like a soft broom. The instinctive
act of humankind was to stand and listenand learn how the
trees on the right and the trees on the left wailed or
chaunted to each other in the regular antiphonies of a
cathedral choir; how hedges and other shapes to leeward then
caught the notelowering it to the tenderest sob; and how
the hurrying gust then plunged into the southto be heard
no more.

The sky was clear -- remarkably clear -- and the twinkling
of all the stars seemed to be but throbs of one bodytimed
by a common pulse. The North Star was directly in the
wind's eyeand since evening the Bear had swung round it
outwardly to the easttill he was now at a right angle with
the meridian. A difference of colour in the stars -oftener
read of than seen in England -- was really
perceptible here. The sovereign brilliancy of Sirius
pierced the eye with a steely glitterthe star called
Capella was yellowAldebaran and Betelgueux shone with a
fiery red.

To persons standing alone on a hill during a clear midnight
such as thisthe roll of the world eastward is almost a
palpable movement. The sensation may be caused by the
panoramic glide of the stars past earthly objectswhich is
perceptible in a few minutes of stillnessor by the better
outlook upon space that a hill affordsor by the windor
by the solitude; but whatever be its originthe impression
of riding along is vivid and abiding. The poetry of motion
is a phrase much in useand to enjoy the epic form of that
gratification it is necessary to stand on a hill at a small
hour of the nightandhaving first expanded with a sense
of difference from the mass of civilised mankindwho are
dreamwrapt and disregardful of all such proceedings at this
timelong and quietly watch your stately progress through
the stars. After such a nocturnal reconnoitre it is hard to
get back to earthand to believe that the consciousness of
such majestic speeding is derived from a tiny human frame.

Suddenly an unexpected series of sounds began to be heard in
this place up against the sky. They had a clearness which
was to be found nowhere in the windand a sequence which
was to be found nowhere in nature. They were the notes of
Farmer Oak's flute.

The tune was not floating unhindered into the open air: it
seemed muffled in some wayand was altogether too curtailed
in power to spread high or wide. It came from the direction
of a small dark object under the plantation hedge -- a
shepherd's hut -- now presenting an outline to which an
uninitiated person might have been puzzled to attach either
meaning or use.

The image as a whole was that of a small Noah's Ark on a
small Araratallowing the traditionary outlines and general
form of the Ark which are followed by toy-makers -- and by
these means are established in men's imaginations among
their firmestbecause earliest impressions --to pass as
an approximate pattern. The hut stood on little wheels
which raised its floor about a foot from the ground. Such
shepherds' huts are dragged into the fields when the lambing
season comes onto shelter the shepherd in his enforced
nightly attendance.


It was only latterly that people had begun to call Gabriel
FarmerOak. During the twelvemonth preceding this time he
had been enabled by sustained efforts of industry and
chronic good spirits to lease the small sheep-farm of which
Norcombe Hill was a portionand stock it with two hundred
sheep. Previously he had been a bailiff for a short time
and earlier still a shepherd onlyhaving from his childhood
assisted his father in tending the flocks of large
proprietorstill old Gabriel sank to rest.

This ventureunaided and aloneinto the paths of farming
as master and not as manwith an advance of sheep not yet
paid forwas a critical juncture with Gabriel Oakand he
recognised his position clearly. The first movement in his
new progress was the lambing of his ewesand sheep having
been his speciality from his youthhe wisely refrained from
deputing the task of tending them at this season to a
hireling or a novice.

The wind continued to beat about the corners of the hutbut
the flute-playing ceased. A rectangular space of light
appeared in the side of the hutand in the opening the
outline of Farmer Oak's figure. He carried a lantern in his
handand closing the door behind himcame forward and
busied himself about this nook of the field for nearly
twenty minutesthe lantern light appearing and disappearing
here and thereand brightening him or darkening him as he
stood before or behind it.

Oak's motionsthough they had a quiet-energywere slow
and their deliberateness accorded well with his occupation.
Fitness being the basis of beautynobody could have denied
that his steady swings and turns in and about the flock had
elements of graceYetalthough if occasion demanded he
could do or think a thing with as mercurial a dash as can
the men of towns who are more to the manner bornhis
special powermorallyphysicallyand mentallywas
staticowing little or nothing to momentum as a rule.

A close examination of the ground hereabouteven by the wan
starlight onlyrevealed how a portion of what would have
been casually called a wild slope had been appropriated by
Farmer Oak for his great purpose this winter. Detached
hurdles thatched with straw were stuck into the ground at
various scattered pointsamid and under which the whitish
forms of his meek ewes moved and rustled. The ring of the
sheep-bellwhich had been silent during his absence
recommencedin tones that had more mellowness than
clearnessowing to an increasing growth of surrounding
wool. This continued till Oak withdrew again from the
flock. He returned to the hutbringing in his arms a newborn
lambconsisting of four legs large enough for a fullgrown
sheepunited by a seemingly inconsiderable membrane
about half the substance of the legs collectivelywhich
constituted the animal's entire body just at present.

The little speck of life he placed on a wisp of hay before
the small stovewhere a can of milk was simmering. Oak
extinguished the lantern by blowing into it and then
pinching the snuffthe cot being lighted by a candle
suspended by a twisted wire. A rather hard couchformed of
a few corn sacks thrown carelessly downcovered half the
floor of this little habitationand here the young man


stretched himself alongloosened his woollen cravatand
closed his eyes. In about the time a person unaccustomed to
bodily labour would have decided upon which side to lie
Farmer Oak was asleep.

The inside of the hutas it now presented itselfwas cosy
and alluringand the scarlet handful of fire in addition to
the candlereflecting its own genial colour upon whatever
it could reachflung associations of enjoyment even over
utensils and tools. In the corner stood the sheep-crook
and along a shelf at one side were ranged bottles and
canisters of the simple preparations pertaining to ovine
surgery and physic; spirits of wineturpentinetar
magnesiagingerand castor-oil being the chief. On a
triangular shelf across the corner stood breadbacon
cheeseand a cup for ale or ciderwhich was supplied from
a flagon beneath. Beside the provisions lay the flute
whose notes had lately been called forth by the lonely
watcher to beguile a tedious hour. The house was ventilated
by two round holeslike the lights of a ship's cabinwith
wood slides.

The lambrevived by the warmth began to bleatand the
sound entered Gabriel's ears and brain with an instant
meaningas expected sounds will. Passing from the
profoundest sleep to the most alert wakefulness with the
same ease that had accompanied the reverse operationhe
looked at his watchfound that the hour-hand had shifted
againput on his hattook the lamb in his armsand
carried it into the darkness. After placing the little
creature with its motherhe stood and carefully examined
the skyto ascertain the time of night from the altitudes
of the stars.

The Dog-star and Aldebaranpointing to the restless
Pleiadeswere half-way up the Southern skyand between
them hung Orionwhich gorgeous constellation never burnt
more vividly than nowas it soared forth above the rim of
the landscape. Castor and Pollux with their quiet shine
were almost on the meridian: the barren and gloomy Square of
Pegasus was creeping round to the north-west; far away
through the plantation Vega sparkled like a lamp suspended
amid the leafless treesand Cassiopeia's chair stood
daintily poised on the uppermost boughs.

One o'clock,said Gabriel.

Being a man not without a frequent consciousness that there
was some charm in this life he ledhe stood still after
looking at the sky as a useful instrumentand regarded it
in an appreciative spiritas a work of art superlatively
beautiful. For a moment he seemed impressed with the
speaking loneliness of the sceneor rather with the
complete abstraction from all its compass of the sights and
sounds of man. Human shapesinterferencestroublesand
joys were all as if they were notand there seemed to be on
the shaded hemisphere of the globe no sentient being save
himself; he could fancy them all gone round to the sunny
side.

Occupied thuswith eyes stretched afarOak gradually
perceived that what he had previously taken to be a star low
down behind the outskirts of the plantation was in reality
no such thing. It was an artificial lightalmost close at


hand.


To find themselves utterly alone at night where company is
desirable and expected makes some people fearful; but a case
more trying by far to the nerves is to discover some
mysterious companionship when intuitionsensationmemory
analogytestimonyprobabilityinduction -- every kind of
evidence in the logician's list -- have united to persuade
consciousness that it is quite in isolation.


Farmer Oak went towards the plantation and pushed through
its lower boughs to the windy side. A dim mass under the
slope reminded him that a shed occupied a place herethe
site being a cutting into the slope of the hillso that at
its back part the roof was almost level with the ground. In
front it was formed of board nailed to posts and covered
with tar as a preservative. Through crevices in the roof
and side spread streaks and dots of lighta combination of
which made the radiance that had attracted him. Oak stepped
up behindwhereleaning down upon the roof and putting his
eye close to a holehe could see into the interior clearly.


The place contained two women and two cows. By the side of
the latter a steaming bran-mash stood in a bucket. One of
the women was past middle age. Her companion was apparently
young and graceful; he could form no decided opinion upon
her looksher position being almost beneath his eyeso
that he saw her in a bird's-eye viewas Milton's Satan
first saw Paradise. She wore no bonnet or hatbut had
enveloped herself in a large cloakwhich was carelessly
flung over her head as a covering.


There, now we'll go home,said the elder of the two
resting her knuckles upon her hipsand looking at their
goings-on as a whole. "I do hope Daisy will fetch round
again now. I have never been more frightened in my life
but I don't mind breaking my rest if she recovers."


The young womanwhose eyelids were apparently inclined to
fall together on the smallest provocation of silenceyawned
without parting her lips to any inconvenient extent
whereupon Gabriel caught the infection and slightly yawned
in sympathy.


I wish we were rich enough to pay a man to do these
things,she said.


As we are not, we must do them ourselves,said the other;
for you must help me if you stay.


Well, my hat is gone, however,continued the younger.
It went over the hedge, I think. The idea of such a slight
wind catching it.


The cow standing erect was of the Devon breedand was
encased in a tight warm hide of rich Indian redas
absolutely uniform from eyes to tail as if the animal had
been dipped in a dye of that colourher long back being
mathematically level. The other was spottedgrey and
white. Beside her Oak now noticed a little calf about a day
oldlooking idiotically at the two womenwhich showed that
it had not long been accustomed to the phenomenon of
eyesightand often turning to the lanternwhich it
apparently mistook for the mooninherited instinct having



as yet had little time for correction by experience.
Between the sheep and the cows Lucina had been busy on
Norcombe Hill lately.

I think we had better send for some oatmeal,said the
elder woman; "there's no more bran."

Yes, aunt; and I'll ride over for it as soon as it is
light.

But there's no side-saddle.

I can ride on the other: trust me.

Oakupon hearing these remarksbecame more curious to
observe her featuresbut this prospect being denied him by
the hooding effect of the cloakand by his aerial position
he felt himself drawing upon his fancy for their details.
In making even horizontal and clear inspections we colour
and mould according to the wants within us whatever our eyes
bring in. Had Gabriel been able from the first to get a
distinct view of her countenancehis estimate of it as very
handsome or slightly so would have been as his soul required
a divinity at the moment or was ready supplied with one.
Having for some time known the want of a satisfactory form
to fill an increasing void within himhis position moreover
affording the widest scope for his fancyhe painted her a
beauty.

By one of those whimsical coincidences in which Naturelike
a busy motherseems to spare a moment from her unremitting
labours to turn and make her children smilethe girl now
dropped the cloakand forth tumbled ropes of black hair
over a red jacket. Oak knew her instantly as the heroine of
the yellow waggonmyrtlesand looking-glass: prosilyas
the woman who owed him twopence.

They placed the calf beside its mother againtook up the
lanternand went outthe light sinking down the hill till
it was no more than a nebula. Gabriel Oak returned to his
flock.

CHAPTER III

A GIRL ON HORSEBACK -- CONVERSATION

THE sluggish day began to break. Even its position
terrestrially is one of the elements of a new interestand
for no particular reason save that the incident of the night
had occurred there Oak went again into the plantation.
Lingering and musing herehe heard the steps of a horse at
the foot of the hilland soon there appeared in view an
auburn pony with a girl on its backascending by the path
leading past the cattle-shed. She was the young woman of
the night before. Gabriel instantly thought of the hat she
had mentioned as having lost in the wind; possibly she had
come to look for it. He hastily scanned the ditch and after
walking about ten yards along it found the hat among the
leaves. Gabriel took it in his hand and returned to his
hut. Here he ensconced himselfand peeped through the
loophole in the direction of the rider's approach.


She came up and looked around -- then on the other side of
the hedge. Gabriel was about to advance and restore the
missing article when an unexpected performance induced him
to suspend the action for the present. The pathafter
passing the cowshedbisected the plantation. It was not a
bridle-path -- merely a pedestrian's trackand the boughs
spread horizontally at a height not greater than seven feet
above the groundwhich made it impossible to ride erect
beneath them. The girlwho wore no riding-habitlooked
around for a momentas if to assure herself that all
humanity was out of viewthen dexterously dropped backwards
flat upon the pony's backher head over its tailher feet
against its shouldersand her eyes to the sky. The
rapidity of her glide into this position was that of a
kingfisher -- its noiselessness that of a hawk. Gabriel's
eyes had scarcely been able to follow her. The tall lank
pony seemed used to such doingsand ambled along
unconcerned. Thus she passed under the level boughs.

The performer seemed quite at home anywhere between a
horse's head and its tailand the necessity for this
abnormal attitude having ceased with the passage of the
plantationshe began to adopt anothereven more obviously
convenient than the first. She had no side-saddleand it
was very apparent that a firm seat upon the smooth leather
beneath her was unattainable sideways. Springing to her
accustomed perpendicular like a bowed saplingand
satisfying herself that nobody was in sightshe seated
herself in the manner demanded by the saddlethough hardly
expected of the womanand trotted off in the direction of
Tewnell Mill.

Oak was amusedperhaps a little astonishedand hanging up
the hat in his hutwent again among his ewes. An hour
passedthe girl returnedproperly seated nowwith a bag
of bran in front of her. On nearing the cattle-shed she was
met by a boy bringing a milking-pailwho held the reins of
the pony whilst she slid off. The boy led away the horse
leaving the pail with the young woman.

Soon soft spirts alternating with loud spirts came in
regular succession from within the shedthe obvious sounds
of a person milking a cow. Gabriel took the lost hat in his
handand waited beside the path she would follow in leaving
the hill.

She camethe pail in one handhanging against her knee.
The left arm was extended as a balanceenough of it being
shown bare to make Oak wish that the event had happened in
the summerwhen the whole would have been revealed. There
was a bright air and manner about her nowby which she
seemed to imply that the desirability of her existence could
not be questioned; and this rather saucy assumption failed
in being offensive because a beholder felt it to beupon
the wholetrue. Like exceptional emphasis in the tone of a
geniusthat which would have made mediocrity ridiculous was
an addition to recognised power. It was with some surprise
that she saw Gabriel's face rising like the moon behind the
hedge.

The adjustment of the farmer's hazy conceptions of her
charms to the portrait of herself she now presented him with
was less a diminution than a difference. The starting-point


selected by the judgment was her height. She seemed tall
but the pail was a small oneand the hedge diminutive;
hencemaking allowance for error by comparison with these
she could have been not above the height to be chosen by
women as best. All features of consequence were severe and
regular. It may have been observed by persons who go about
the shires with eyes for beautythat in Englishwoman a
classically-formed face is seldom found to be united with a
figure of the same patternthe highly-finished features
being generally too large for the remainder of the frame;
that a graceful and proportionate figure of eight heads
usually goes off into random facial curves. Without
throwing a Nymphean tissue over a milkmaidlet it be said
that here criticism checked itself as out of placeand
looked at her proportions with a long consciousness of
pleasure. From the contours of her figure in its upper
partshe must have had a beautiful neck and shoulders; but
since her infancy nobody had ever seen them. Had she been
put into a low dress she would have run and thrust her head
into a bush. Yet she was not a shy girl by any means; it
was merely her instinct to draw the line dividing the seen
from the unseen higher than they do it in towns.


That the girl's thoughts hovered about her face and form as
soon as she caught Oak's eyes conning the same page was
naturaland almost certain. The self-consciousness shown
would have been vanity if a little more pronounceddignity
if a little less. Rays of male vision seem to have a
tickling effect upon virgin faces in rural districts; she
brushed hers with her handas if Gabriel had been
irritating its pink surface by actual touchand the free
air of her previous movements was reduced at the same time
to a chastened phase of itself. Yet it was the man who
blushedthe maid not at all.


I found a hat,said Oak.


It is mine,said sheandfrom a sense of proportion
kept down to a small smile an inclination to laugh
distinctly: "it flew away last night."


One o'clock this morning?


Well -- it was.She was surprised. "How did you know?"
she said.
I was here.


You are Farmer Oak, are you not?


That or thereabouts. I'm lately come to this place.


A large farm?she inquiredcasting her eyes roundand
swinging back her hairwhich was black in the shaded
hollows of its mass; but it being now an hour past sunrise the
rays touched its prominent curves with a colour of their own.


No; not large. About a hundred.(In speaking of farms
the word "acres" is omitted by the nativesby analogy to
such old expressions as "a stag of ten.")


I wanted my hat this morning.she went on. "I had to ride
to Tewnell Mill."


Yes you had.



How do you know?

I saw you.

Where?she inquireda misgiving bringing every muscle of
her lineaments and frame to a standstill.

Here -- going through the plantation, and all down the
hill,said Farmer Oakwith an aspect excessively knowing
with regard to some matter in his mindas he gazed at a
remote point in the direction namedand then turned back to
meet his colloquist's eyes.

A perception caused him to withdraw his own eyes from hers
as suddenly as if he had been caught in a theft.
Recollection of the strange antics she had indulged in when
passing through the trees was succeeded in the girl by a
nettled palpitationand that by a hot face. It was a time
to see a woman redden who was not given to reddening as a
rule; not a point in the milkmaid but was of the deepest
rose-colour. From the Maiden's Blushthrough all varieties
of the Provence down to the Crimson Tuscanythe countenance
of Oak's acquaintance quickly graduated; whereupon hein
consideratenessturned away his head.

The sympathetic man still looked the other wayand wondered
when she would recover coolness sufficient to justify him in
facing her again. He heard what seemed to be the flitting
of a dead leaf upon the breezeand looked. She had gone
away.

With an air between that of Tragedy and Comedy Gabriel
returned to his work.

Five mornings and evenings passed. The young woman came
regularly to milk the healthy cow or to attend to the sick
onebut never allowed her vision to stray in the direction
of Oak's person. His want of tact had deeply offended her -not
by seeing what he could not helpbut by letting her
know that he had seen it. Foras without law there is no
sinwithout eyes there is no indecorum; and she appeared to
feel that Gabriel's espial had made her an indecorous woman
without her own connivance. It was food for great regret
with him; it was also a CONTRETEMPS which touched into life
a latent heat he had experienced in that direction.

The acquaintanceship mighthoweverhave ended in a slow
forgettingbut for an incident which occurred at the end of
the same week. One afternoon it began to freezeand the
frost increased with eveningwhich drew on like a stealthy
tightening of bonds. It was a time when in cottages the
breath of the sleepers freezes to the sheets; when round the
drawing-room fire of a thick-walled mansion the sitters'
backs are coldeven whilst their faces are all aglow. Many
a small bird went to bed supperless that night among the
bare boughs.

As the milking-hour drew nearOak kept his usual watch upon
the cowshed. At last he felt coldand shaking an extra
quantity of bedding round the yearling ewes he entered the
hut and heaped more fuel upon the stove. The wind came in
at the bottom of the doorand to prevent it Oak laid a sack
there and wheeled the cot round a little more to the south.


Then the wind spouted in at a ventilating hole -- of which
there was one on each side of the hut.

Gabriel had always known that when the fire was lighted and
the door closed one of these must be kept open -- that
chosen being always on the side away from the wind. Closing
the slide to windwardhe turned to open the other; on
second thoughts the farmer considered that he would first
sit down leaving both closed for a minute or twotill the
temperature of the hut was a little raised. He sat down.

His head began to ache in an unwonted mannerandfancying
himself weary by reason of the broken rests of the preceding
nightsOak decided to get upopen the slideand then
allow himself to fall asleep. He fell asleephowever
without having performed the necessary preliminary.

How long he remained unconscious Gabriel never knew. During
the first stages of his return to perception peculiar deeds
seemed to be in course of enactment. His dog was howling
his head was aching fearfully -- somebody was pulling him
abouthands were loosening his neckerchief.

On opening his eyes he found that evening had sunk to dusk
in a strange manner of unexpectedness. The young girl with
the remarkably pleasant lips and white teeth was beside him.
More than this -- astonishingly more -- his head was upon
her laphis face and neck were disagreeably wetand her
fingers were unbuttoning his collar.

Whatever is the matter?said Oakvacantly.

She seemed to experience mirthbut of too insignificant a
kind to start enjoyment.

Nothing now,' she answered, since you are not dead. It is
a wonder you were not suffocated in this hut of yours."

Ah, the hut!murmured Gabriel. "I gave ten pounds for
that hut. But I'll sell itand sit under thatched hurdles
as they did in old timesand curl up to sleep in a lock of
straw! It played me nearly the same trick the other day!"
Gabrielby way of emphasisbrought down his fist upon the
floor.

It was not exactly the fault of the hut,she observed in a
tone which showed her to be that novelty among women -- one
who finished a thought before beginning the sentence which
was to convey it. "You shouldI thinkhave considered
and not have been so foolish as to leave the slides closed."

Yes I suppose I should,said Oakabsently. He was
endeavouring to catch and appreciate the sensation of being
thus with herhis head upon her dressbefore the event
passed on into the heap of bygone things. He wished she
knew his impressions; but he would as soon have thought of
carrying an odour in a net as of attempting to convey the
intangibilities of his feeling in the coarse meshes of
language. So he remained silent.

She made him sit upand then Oak began wiping his face and
shaking himself like a Samson. "How can I thank 'ee?" he
said at lastgratefullysome of the natural rusty red
having returned to his face.


Oh, never mind that,said the girlsmilingand allowing
her smile to hold good for Gabriel's next remarkwhatever
that might prove to be.

How did you find me?

I heard your dog howling and scratching at the door of the
hut when I came to the milking (it was so lucky, Daisy's
milking is almost over for the season, and I shall not come
here after this week or the next). The dog saw me, and
jumped over to me, and laid hold of my skirt. I came across
and looked round the hut the very first thing to see if the
slides were closed. My uncle has a hut like this one, and I
have heard him tell his shepherd not to go to sleep without
leaving a slide open. I opened the door, and there you were
like dead. I threw the milk over you, as there was no
water, forgetting it was warm, and no use.

I wonder if I should have died?Gabriel saidin a low
voicewhich was rather meant to travel back to himself than
to her.

Oh no!the girl replied. She seemed to prefer a less
tragic probability; to have saved a man from death involved
talk that should harmonise with the dignity of such a deed -and
she shunned it.

I believe you saved my life, Miss ---- I don't know your
name. I know your aunt's, but not yours.

I would just as soon not tell it -- rather not. There is
no reason either why I should, as you probably will never
have much to do with me.

Still, I should like to know.

You can inquire at my aunt's -- she will tell you.

My name is Gabriel Oak.

And mine isn't. You seem fond of yours in speaking it so
decisively, Gabriel Oak.

You see, it is the only one I shall ever have, and I must
make the most of it.

I always think mine sounds odd and disagreeable.

I should think you might soon get a new one.

Mercy! -- how many opinions you keep about you concerning
other people, Gabriel Oak.

Well, Miss -- excuse the words -- I thought you would like
them. But I can't match you, I know, in napping out my mind
upon my tongue. I never was very clever in my inside. But
I thank you. Come, give me your hand.

She hesitatedsomewhat disconcerted at Oak's old-fashioned
earnest conclusion to a dialogue lightly carried on. "Very
well she said, and gave him her hand, compressing her lips
to a demure impassivity. He held it but an instant, and in
his fear of being too demonstrative, swerved to the opposite


extreme, touching her fingers with the lightness of a smallhearted
person.

I am sorry he said the instant after.

What for?"

Letting your hand go so quick

You may have it again if you like; there it is.She gave
him her hand again.

Oak held it longer this time -- indeedcuriously long.
How soft it is -- being winter time, too -- not chapped or
rough or anything!he said.

There -- that's long enough,said shethough without
pulling it away. "But I suppose you are thinking you would
like to kiss it? You may if you want to."

I wasn't thinking of any such thing,said Gabrielsimply;
but I will ----

That you won't!She snatched back her hand.

Gabriel felt himself guilty of another want of tact.

Now find out my name,she saidteasingly; and withdrew.

CHAPTER IV

GABRIEL'S RESOLVE -- THE VISIT -- THE MISTAKE

THE only superiority in women that is tolerable to the rival
sex isas a rulethat of the unconscious kind; but a
superiority which recognizes itself may sometimes please by
suggesting possibilities of capture to the subordinated man.

This well-favoured and comely girl soon made appreciable
inroads upon the emotional constitution of young Farmer Oak.

Lovebeing an extremely exacting usurer (a sense of
exorbitant profitspirituallyby an exchange of hearts
being at the bottom of pure passionsas that of exorbitant
profitbodily or materiallyis at the bottom of those of
lower atmosphere)every morning Oak's feelings were as
sensitive as the money-market in calculations upon his
chances. His dog waited for his meals in a way so like that
in which Oak waited for the girl's presencethat the farmer
was quite struck with the resemblancefelt it loweringand
would not look at the dog. Howeverhe continued to watch
through the hedge for her regular comingand thus his
sentiments towards her were deepened without any
corresponding effect being produced upon herself. Oak had
nothing finished and ready to say as yetand not being able
to frame love phrases which end where they begin; passionate
tales -


-- Full of sound and fury
-- signifying nothing -



he said no word at all.

By making inquiries he found that the girl's name was
Bathsheba Everdeneand that the cow would go dry in about
seven days. He dreaded the eighth day.

At last the eighth day came. The cow had ceased to give
milk for that yearand Bathsheba Everdene came up the hill
no more. Gabriel had reached a pitch of existence he never
could have anticipated a short time before. He liked saying
Bathshebaas a private enjoyment instead of whistling;
turned over his taste to black hairthough he had sworn by
brown ever since he was a boyisolated himself till the
space he filled in the public eye was contemptibly small.
Love is a possible strength in an actual weakness. Marriage
transforms a distraction into a supportthe power of which
should beand happily often isin direct proportion to the
degree of imbecility it supplants. Oak began now to see
light in this directionand said to himselfI'll make her
my wife, or upon my soul I shall be good for nothing!

All this while he was perplexing himself about an errand on
which he might consistently visit the cottage of Bathsheba's
aunt.

He found his opportunity in the death of a ewemother of a
living lamb. On a day which had a summer face and a winter
constitution -- a fine January morningwhen there was just
enough blue sky visible to make cheerfully-disposed people
wish for moreand an occasional gleam of silvery sunshine
Oak put the lamb into a respectable Sunday basketand
stalked across the fields to the house of Mrs. Hurstthe
aunt -- Georgethe dog walking behindwith a countenance
of great concern at the serious turn pastoral affairs seemed
to be taking.

Gabriel had watched the blue wood-smoke curling from the
chimney with strange meditation. At evening he had
fancifully traced it down the chimney to the spot of its
origin -- seen the hearth and Bathsheba beside it -- beside
it in her out-door dress; for the clothes she had worn on
the hill were by association equally with her person
included in the compass of his affection; they seemed at
this early time of his love a necessary ingredient of the
sweet mixture called Bathsheba Everdene.

He had made a toilet of a nicely-adjusted kind -- of a
nature between the carefully neat and the carelessly ornate
-- of a degree between fine-market-day and wet-Sunday
selection. He thoroughly cleaned his silver watch-chain
with whitingput new lacing straps to his bootslooked to
the brass eyelet-holeswent to the inmost heart of the
plantation for a new walking-stickand trimmed it
vigorously on his way back; took a new handkerchief from the
bottom of his clothes-boxput on the light waistcoat
patterned all over with sprigs of an elegant flower uniting
the beauties of both rose and lily without the defects of
eitherand used all the hair-oil he possessed upon his
usually drysandyand inextricably curly hairtill he had
deepened it to a splendidly novel colourbetween that of
guano and Roman cementmaking it stick to his head like
mace round a nutmegor wet seaweed round a boulder after


the ebb.

Nothing disturbed the stillness of the cottage save the
chatter of a knot of sparrows on the eaves; one might fancy
scandal and rumour to be no less the staple topic of these
little coteries on roofs than of those under them. It
seemed that the omen was an unpropitious oneforas the
rather untoward commencement of Oak's overturesjust as he
arrived by the garden gatehe saw a cat insidegoing into
various arched shapes and fiendish convulsions at the sight
of his dog George. The dog took no noticefor he had
arrived at an age at which all superfluous barking was
cynically avoided as a waste of breath -- in facthe never
barked even at the sheep except to orderwhen it was done
with an absolutely neutral countenanceas a sort of
Commination-servicewhichthough offensivehad to be gone
through once now and then to frighten the flock for their
own good.

A voice came from behind some laurel-bushes into which the
cat had run:

Poor dear! Did a nasty brute of a dog want to kill it; -did
he, poor dear!

I beg your pardon,said Oak to the voicebut George was
walking on behind me with a temper as mild as milk.

Almost before he had ceased speakingOak was seized with a
misgiving as to whose ear was the recipient of his answer.
Nobody appearedand he heard the person retreat among the
bushes.

Gabriel meditatedand so deeply that he brought small
furrows into his forehead by sheer force of reverie. Where
the issue of an interview is as likely to be a vast change
for the worse as for the betterany initial difference from
expectation causes nipping sensations of failure. Oak went
up to the door a little abashed: his mental rehearsal and
the reality had had no common grounds of opening.

Bathsheba's aunt was indoors. "Will you tell Miss Everdene
that somebody would be glad to speak to her?" said Mr. Oak.
(Calling one's self merely Somebodywithout giving a name
is not to be taken as an example of the ill-breeding of the
rural world: it springs from a refined modestyof which
townspeoplewith their cards and announcementshave no
notion whatever.)

Bathsheba was out. The voice had evidently been hers.

Will you come in, Mr. Oak?

Oh, thank 'ee,said Gabrielfollowing her to the
fireplace. "I've brought a lamb for Miss Everdene.

I
thought she might like one to rear; girls do."

She might,said Mrs. Hurstmusingly; "though she's only a
visitor here. If you will wait a minuteBathsheba will be
in."

Yes, I will wait,said Gabrielsitting down. "The lamb
isn't really the business I came aboutMrs. Hurst. In
shortI was going to ask her if she'd like to be married."


And were you indeed?

Yes. Because if she would, I should be very glad to marry
her. D'ye know if she's got any other young man hanging
about her at all?

Let me think,said Mrs. Hurstpoking the fire
superfluously.... "Yes -- bless youever so many young
men. You seeFarmer Oakshe's so good-lookingand an
excellent scholar besides -- she was going to be a governess
onceyou knowonly she was too wild. Not that her young
men ever come here -- butLordin the nature of womenshe
must have a dozen!"

That's unfortunate,said Farmer Oakcontemplating a crack
in the stone floor with sorrow. "I'm only an every-day sort
of manand my only chance was in being the first comer...
Wellthere's no use in my waitingfor that was all I came
about: so I'll take myself off home-alongMrs. Hurst."

When Gabriel had gone about two hundred yards along the
downhe heard a "hoi-hoi!" uttered behind himin a piping
note of more treble quality than that in which the
exclamation usually embodies itself when shouted across a
field. He looked roundand saw a girl racing after him
waving a white handkerchief.

Oak stood still -- and the runner drew nearer. It was
Bathsheba Everdene. Gabriel's colour deepened: hers was
already deepnotas it appearedfrom emotionbut from
running.

Farmer Oak -- I ----she saidpausing for want of breath
pulling up in front of him with a slanted face and putting
her hand to her side.

I have just called to see you,said Gabrielpending her
further speech.

Yes -- I know that,she said panting like a robinher
face red and moist from her exertionslike a peony petal
before the sun dries off the dew. "I didn't know you had
come to ask to have meor I should have come in from the
garden instantly. I ran after you to say -- that my aunt
made a mistake in sending you away from courting me ----"

Gabriel expanded. "I'm sorry to have made you run so fast
my dear he said, with a grateful sense of favours to come.
Wait a bit till you've found your breath."

-- It was quite a mistake-aunt's telling you I had a young
man already,Bathsheba went on. "I haven't a sweetheart at
all -- and I never had oneand I thought thatas times go
with womenit was SUCH a pity to send you away thinking
that I had several."

Really and truly I am glad to hear that!said Farmer Oak
smiling one of his long special smilesand blushing with
gladness. He held out his hand to take herswhichwhen
she had eased her side by pressing it therewas prettily
extended upon her bosom to still her loud-beating heart.
Directly he seized it she put it behind herso that it
slipped through his fingers like an eel."


I have a nice snug little farm,said Gabrielwith half a
degree less assurance than when he had seized her hand.

Yes; you have.

A man has advanced me money to begin with, but still, it
will soon be paid off and though I am only an every-day sort
of man, I have got on a little since I was a boy.Gabriel
uttered "a little" in a tone to show her that it was the
complacent form of "a great deal." He continued: "When we
be marriedI am quite sure I can work twice as hard as I do
now."

He went forward and stretched out his arm again. Bathsheba
had overtaken him at a point beside which stood a low
stunted holly bushnow laden with red berries. Seeing his
advance take the form of an attitude threatening a possible
enclosureif not compressionof her personshe edged off
round the bush.

Why, Farmer Oak,she saidover the toplooking at him
with rounded eyesI never said I was going to marry you.

Well -- that IS a tale!said Oakwith dismay." To run
after anybody like thisand then say you don't want him!"

What I meant to tell you was only this,she said eagerly
and yet half conscious of the absurdity of the position she
had made for herself -- "that nobody has got me yet as a
sweetheartinstead of my having a dozenas my aunt said;
I HATE to be thought men's property in that waythough
possibly I shall be had some day. Whyif I'd wanted you I
shouldn't have run after you like this; 'twould have been
the FORWARDEST thing! But there was no harm in hurrying to
correct a piece of false news that had been told you."

Oh, no -- no harm at all.But there is such a thing as
being too generous in expressing a judgment impulsivelyand
Oak added with a more appreciative sense of all the
circumstances -- "WellI am not quite certain it was no
harm."

Indeed, I hadn't time to think before starting whether I
wanted to marry or not, for you'd have been gone over the
hill.

Come,said Gabrielfreshening again; "think a minute or
two. I'll wait a whileMiss Everdene. Will you marry me?
DoBathsheba. I love you far more than common!"

I'll try to think,she observedrather more timorously;
if I can think out of doors; my mind spreads away so.

But you can give a guess.

Then give me time.Bathsheba looked thoughtfully into the
distanceaway from the direction in which Gabriel stood.

I can make you happy,said he to the back of her head
across the bush. "You shall have a piano in a year or two -farmers'
wives are getting to have pianos now -- and I'll
practise up the flute right well to play with you in the
evenings."


Yes; I should like that.

And have one of those little ten-poundgigs for market -and
nice flowersand birds -- cocks and hens I mean
because they be useful continued Gabriel, feeling balanced
between poetry and practicality.

I should like it very much."

And a frame for cucumbers -- like a gentleman and lady.

Yes."

And when the wedding was over, we'd have it put in the
newspaper list of marriages.

Dearly I should like that!

And the babies in the births -- every man jack of 'em! And
at home by the fire, whenever you look up, there I shall be
-- and whenever I look up there will be you.

Wait, wait, and don't be improper!

Her countenance felland she was silent awhile. He
regarded the red berries between them over and over again
to such an extentthat holly seemed in his after life to be
a cypher signifying a proposal of marriage. Bathsheba
decisively turned to him.

No;'tis no use she said. I don't want to marry you."

Try.

I have tried hard all the time I've been thinking; for a
marriage would be very nice in one sense. People would talk
about me, and think I had won my battle, and I should feel
triumphant, and all that, But a husband ---


Well!"

Why, he'd always be there, as you say; whenever I looked
up, there he'd be.

Of course he would -- I, that is.

Well, what I mean is that I shouldn't mind being a bride at
a wedding, if I could be one without having a husband. But
since a woman can't show off in that way by herself, I
shan't marry -- at least yet.

That's a terrible wooden story.

At this criticism of her statement Bathsheba made an
addition to her dignity by a slight sweep away from him.

Upon my heart and soul, I don't know what a maid can say
stupider than that,said Oak. "But dearest he continued
in a palliative voice, don't be like it!" Oak sighed a deep
honest sigh -- none the less so in thatbeing like the sigh
of a pine plantationit was rather noticeable as a
disturbance of the atmosphere. "Why won't you have me?" he
appealedcreeping round the holly to reach her side.


I cannot,she saidretreating.

But why?he persistedstanding still at last in despair
of ever reaching herand facing over the bush.

Because I don't love you.

Yes, but ----

She contracted a yawn to an inoffensive smallnessso that
it was hardly ill-mannered at all. "I don't love you she
said.

But I love you -- and, as for myself, I am content to be
liked.

Oh Mr. Oak -- that's very fine! You'd get to despise me.

Never,said Mr Oakso earnestly that he seemed to be
comingby the force of his wordsstraight through the bush
and into her arms. "I shall do one thing in this life -one
thing certain -- that islove youand long for you
and KEEP WANTING YOU till I die." His voice had a genuine
pathos nowand his large brown hands perceptibly trembled.

It seems dreadfully wrong not to have you when you feel so
much!she said with a little distressand looking
hopelessly around for some means of escape from her moral
dilemma. "How I wish I hadn't run after you!" However she
seemed to have a short cut for getting back to cheerfulness
and set her face to signify archness. "It wouldn't doMr
Oak. I want somebody to tame me; I am too independent; and
you would never be able toI know."

Oak cast his eyes down the field in a way implying that it
was useless to attempt argument.

Mr. Oak,she saidwith luminous distinctness and common
senseyou are better off than I. I have hardly a penny in
the world -- I am staying with my aunt for my bare
sustenance. I am better educated than you -- and I don't
love you a bit: that's my side of the case. Now yours: you
are a farmer just begining; and you ought in common
prudence, if you marry at all (which you should certainly
not think of doing at present), to marry a woman with money,
who would stock a larger farm for you than you have now.

Gabriel looked at her with a little surprise and much
admiration.

That's the very thing I had been thinking myself!he
naively said.

Farmer Oak had one-and-a-half Christian characteristics too
many to succeed with Bathsheba: his humilityand a
superfluous moiety of honesty. Bathsheba was decidedly
disconcerted.

Well, then, why did you come and disturb me?she said
almost angrilyif not quitean enlarging red spot rising
in each cheek.

I can't do what I think would be -- would be ----


Right?

No: wise.

You have made an admission NOW, Mr. Oak,she exclaimed
with even more hauteurand rocking her head disdainfully.
After that, do you think I could marry you? Not if I know
it.

He broke in passionately. "But don't mistake me like that!
Because I am open enough to own what every man in my shoes
would have thought ofyou make your colours come up your
faceand get crabbed with me. That about your not being
good enough for me is nonsense. You speak like a lady -all
the parish notice itand your uncle at Weatherbury is
I have heerda large farmer -- much larger than ever I
shall be. May I call in the eveningor will you walk along
with me o' Sundays? I don't want you to make-up your mind
at onceif you'd rather not."

No -- no -- I cannot. Don't press me any more -- don't. I
don't love you -- so 'twould be ridiculous,she saidwith
a laugh.

No man likes to see his emotions the sport of a merry-goround
of skittishness. "Very well said Oak, firmly, with
the bearing of one who was going to give his days and nights
to Ecclesiastes for ever. Then I'll ask you no more."

CHAPTER V

DEPARTURE OF BATHSHEBA -- A PASTORAL TRAGEDY

THE news which one day reached Gabrielthat Bathsheba
Everdene had left the neighbourhoodhad an influence upon
him which might have surprised any who never suspected that
the more emphatic the renunciation the less absolute its
character.

It may have been observed that there is no regulal path for
getting out of love as there is for getting in. Some people
look upon marriage as a short cut that waybut it has been
known to fail. Separationwhich was the means that chance
offered to Gabriel Oak by Bathsheba's disappearance though
effectual with people of certain humours is apt to idealize
the removed object with others -- notably those whose
affectionplacid and regular as it may beflows deep and
long. Oak belonged to the even-tempered order of humanity
and felt the secret fusion of himself in Bathsheba to be
burning with a finer flame now that she was gone -- that was
all.

His incipient friendship with her aunt had been nipped by
the failure of his suitand all that Oak learnt of
Bathsheba's movements was done indirectly. It appeared that
she had gone to a place called Weatherburymore than twenty
miles offbut in what capacity -- whether as a visitoror
permanentlyhe could not discover.

Gabriel had two dogs. Georgethe elderexhibited an


ebony-tipped nosesurrounded by a narrow margin of pink
fleshand a coat marked in random splotches approximating
in colour to white and slaty grey; but the greyafter years
of sun and rainhad been scorched and washed out of the
more prominent locksleaving them of a reddish-brownas if
the blue component of the grey had fadedlike the indigo
from the same kind of colour in Turner's pictures. In
substance it had originally been hairbut long contact with
sheep seemed to be turning it by degrees into wool of a poor
quality and staple.

This dog had originally belonged to a shepherd of inferior
morals and dreadful temperand the result was that George
knew the exact degrees of condemnation signified by cursing
and swearing of all descriptions better than the wickedest
old man in the neighbourhood. Long experience had so
precisely taught the animal the difference between such
exclamations as "Come in!" and "D ---- yecome in!" that he
knew to a hair's breadth the rate of trotting back from the
ewes' tails that each call involvedif a staggerer with the
sheep crook was to be escaped. Though oldhe was clever
and trustworthy still.

The young dogGeorge's sonmight possibly have been the
image of his motherfor there was not much resemblance
between him and George. He was learning the sheep-keeping
businessso as to follow on at the flock when the other
should diebut had got no further than the rudiments as yet
-- still finding an insuperable difficulty in distinguishing
between doing a thing well enough and doing it too well. So
earnest and yet so wrong-headed was this young dog (he had
noname in particularand answered with perfect readiness
to any pleasant interjection)that if sent behind the flock
to help them onhe did it so thoroughly that he would have
chased them across the whole county with the greatest
pleasure if not called off or reminded when to stop by the
example of old George.

Thus much for the dogs. On the further side of Norcombe
Hill was a chalk-pitfrom which chalk had been drawn for
generationsand spread over adjacent farms. Two hedges
converged upon it in the form of a Vbut without quite
meeting. The narrow opening leftwhich was immediately
over the brow of the pitwas protected by a rough railing.

One nightwhen Farmer Oak had returned tohis house
believing there would be no further necessity for his
attendance on the downhe called as usual to the dogs
previously to shutting them up in the outhouse till next
morning. Only one responded -- old George; the other could
not be foundeither in the houselaneor garden. Gabriel
then remembered that he had left the two dogs on the hill
eating a dead lamb (a kind of meat he usually kept from
themexcept when other food ran short)and concluding that
the young one had not finished his mealhe went indoors to
the luxury of a bedwhich latterly he had only enjoyed on
Sundays.

It was a stillmoist night. Just before dawn he was
assisted in waking by the abnormal reverberation of familiar
music. To the shepherdthe note of the sheep-belllike
the ticking of the clock to other peopleis a chronic sound
that only makes itself noticed by ceasing or altering in
some unusual manner from the well-known idle twinkle which


signifies to the accustomed earhowever distantthat all
is well in the fold. In the solemn calm of the awakening
morn that note was heard by Gabrielbeating with unusual
violence and rapidity. This exceptional ringing may be
caused in two ways -- by the rapid feeding of the sheep
bearing the bellas when the flock breaks into new pasture
which gives it an intermittent rapidityor by the sheep
starting off in a runwhen the sound has a regular
palpitation. The experienced ear of Oak knew the sound he
now heard to be caused by the running of the flock with
great velocity.

He jumped out of beddressedtore down the lane through a
foggy dawnand ascended the hill. The forward ewes were
kept apart from those among which the fall of lambs would be
laterthere being two hundred of the latter class in
Gabriel's flock. These two hundred seemed to have
absolutely vanished from the hill. There were the fifty
with their lambsenclosed at the other end as he had left
thembut the restforming the bulk of the flockwere
nowhere. Gabriel called at the top of his voice the
shepherd's call.

Ovey, ovey, ovey!

Not a single bleat. He went to the hedge; a gap had been
broken through itand in the gap were the footprints of the
sheep. Rather surprised to find them break fence at this
seasonyet putting it down instantly to their great
fondness for ivy in winter-timeof which a great deal grew
in the plantationhe followed through the hedge. They were
not in the plantation. He called again: the valleys and
farthest hills resounded as when the sailors invoked the
lost Hylas on the Mysian shore; but no sheep. He passed
through the trees and along the ridge of the hill. On the
extreme summitwhere the ends of the two converging hedges
of which we have spoken were stopped short by meeting the
brow of the chalk-pithe saw the younger dog standing
against the sky -- dark and motionless as Napoleon at St.
Helena.

A horrible conviction darted through Oak. With a sensation
of bodily faintness he advanced: at one point the rails
were broken throughand there he saw the footprints of his
ewes. The dog came uplicked his handand made signs
implying that he expected some great reward for signal
services rendered. Oak looked over the precipice. The ewes
lay dead and dying at its foot -- a heap of two hundred
mangled carcassesrepresenting in their condition just now
at least two hundred more.

Oak was an intensely humane man: indeedhis humanity often
tore in pieces any politic intentions of his which bordered
on strategyand carried him on as by gravitation. A shadow
in his life had always been that his flock ended in mutton -that
a day came and found every shepherd an arrant traitor
to his defenseless sheep. His first feeling now was one of
pity for the untimely fate of these gentle ewes and their
unborn lambs.

It was a second to remember another phase of the matter.
The sheep were not insured. All the savings of a frugal
life had been dispersed at a blow; his hopes of being an
independent farmer were laid low -- possibly for ever.


Gabriel's energiespatienceand industry had been so
severely taxed during the years of his life between eighteen
and eight-and-twentyto reach his present stage of progress
that no more seemed to be left in him. He leant down upon a
railand covered his face with his hands.

Stuporshoweverdo not last for everand Farmer Oak
recovered from his. It was as remarkable as it was
characteristic that the one sentence he uttered was in
thankfulness: -


Thank God I am not married: what would she have done in
the poverty now coming upon me!

Oak raised his headand wondering what he could do
listlessly surveyed the scene. By the outer margin of the
Pit was an oval pondand over it hung the attenuated
skeleton of a chrome-yellow moon which had only a few days
to last -- the morning star dogging her on the left hand.
The pool glittered like a dead man's eyeand as the world
awoke a breeze blewshaking and elongating the reflection
of the moon without breaking itand turning the image of
the star to a phosphoric streak upon the water. All this
Oak saw and remembered.

As far as could be learnt it appeared that the poor young
dogstill under the impression that since he was kept for
running after sheepthe more he ran after them the better
had at the end of his meal off the dead lambwhich may have
given him additional energy and spiritscollected all the
ewes into a cornerdriven the timid creatures through the
hedgeacross the upper fieldand by main force of worrying
had given them momentum enough to break down a portion of
the rotten railingand so hurled them over the edge.

George's son had done his work so thoroughly that he was
considered too good a workman to liveand wasin fact
taken and tragically shot at twelve o'clock that same day -another
instance of the untoward fate which so often attends
dogs and other philosophers who follow out a train of
reasoning to its logical conclusionand attempt perfectly
consistent conduct in a world made up so largely of
compromise.

Gabriel's farm had been stocked by a dealer -- on the
strength of Oak's promising look and character -- who was
receiving a percentage from the farmer till such time as the
advance should be cleared off. Oak found that the value of
stockplantand implements which were really his own would
be about sufficient to pay his debtsleaving himself a free
man with the clothes he stood up inand nothing more.

CHAPTER VI

THE FAIR -- THE JOURNEY -- THE FIRE

TWO months passed away. We are brought on to a day in
Februaryon which was held the yearly statute or hiring
fair in the county-town of Casterbridge.

At one end of the street stood from two to three hundred


blithe and hearty labourers waiting upon Chance -- all men
of the stamp to whom labour suggests nothing worse than a
wrestle with gravitationand pleasure nothing better than a
renunciation of the same. Among thesecarters and waggoners
were distinguished by having a piece of whip-cord twisted
round their hats; thatchers wore a fragment of woven straw;
shepherds held their sheep-crooks in their hands; and thus
the situation required was known to the hirers at a glance.

In the crowd was an athletic young fellow of some-what
superior appearance to the rest -- in facthis superiority
was marked enough to lead several ruddy peasants standing by
to speak to him inquiringlyas to a farmerand to use
'Sir' as a finishing word. His answer always was-


I am looking for a place myself -- a bailiff's. Do ye know
of anybody who wants one?

Gabriel was paler now. His eyes were more meditativeand
his expression was more sad. He had passed through an
ordeal of wretchedness which had given him more than it had
taken away. He had sunk from his modest elevation as
pastoral king into the very slime-pits of Siddim; but there
was left to him a dignified calm he had never before known
and that indifference to fate whichthough it often makes a
villain of a manis the basis of his sublimity when it does
not. And thus the abasement had been exaltationand the
loss gain.

In the morning a regiment of cavalry had left the townand
a sergeant and his party had been beating up for recruits
through the four streets. As the end of the day drew on
and he found himself not hiredGabriel almost wished that
he had joined themand gone off to serve his country.
Weary of standing in the market-placeand not much minding
the kind of work he turned his hand tohe decided to offer
himself in some other capacity than that of bailiff.

All the farmers seemed to be wanting shepherds. Sheeptending
was Gabriel's speciality. Turning down an obscure
street and entering an obscurer lanehe went up to a
smith's shop.

How long would it take you to make a shepherd's crook?

Twenty minutes.

How much?

Two shillings.

He sat on a bench and the crook was madea stem being given
him into the bargain.

He then went to a ready-made clothes' shopthe owner of
which had a large rural connection. As the crook had
absorbed most of Gabriel's moneyhe attemptedand carried
outan exchange of his overcoat for a shepherd's regulation
smock-frock.

This transaction having been completedhe again hurried off
to the centre of the townand stood on the kerb of the
pavementas a shepherdcrook in hand.


Now that Oak had turned himself into a shepherdit seemed
that bailifs were most in demand. Howevertwo or three
farmers noticed him and drew near. Dialogues followedmore
or less in the subjoined form: -


Where do you come from?

Norcombe.

That's a long way.

Fifteen miles."

Who's farm were you upon last?

My own.

This reply invariably operated like a rumour of cholera.
The inquiring farmer would edge away and shake his head
dubiously. Gabriellike his dogwas too good to be
trustworthyand he never made advance beyond this point.

It is safer to accept any chance that offers itselfand
extemporize a procedure to fit itthan to get a good
shepherdbut had laid himself out for anything in the whole
cycle of labour that was required in the fair. It grew
dusk. Some merry men were whistling and singing by the
corn-exchange. Gabriel's handwhich had lain for some time
idle in his smock-frock pockettouched his flute which he
carried there. Here was an opportunity for putting his
dearly bought wisdom into practice.

He drew out his flute and began to play "Jockey to the Fair"
in the style of a man who had never known moment's sorrow.
Oak could pipe with Arcadian sweetness and the sound of the
well-known notes cheered his own heart as well as those of
the loungers. He played on with spiritand in half an hour
had earned in pence what was a small fortune to a destitute
man.

By making inquiries he learnt that there was another fair at
Shottsford the next day.

How far is Shottsford?

Ten miles t'other side of Weatherbury.

Weatherbury! It was where Bathsheba had gone two months
before. This information was like coming from night into
noon.

How far is it to Weatherbury?

Five or six miles.

Bathsheba had probably left Weatherbury long before this
timebut the place had enough interest attaching to it to
lead Oak to choose Shottsford fair as his next field of
inquirybecause it lay in the Weatherbury quarter.
Moreoverthe Weatherbury folk were by no means
uninteresting intrinsically. If report spoke truly they
were as hardymerrythrivingwicked a set as any in the
whole county. Oak resolved to sleep at Weatherbury that
night on his way to Shottsfordand struck out at once into


the high road which had been recommended as the direct route
to the village in question.

The road stretched through water-meadows traversed by little
brookswhose quivering surfaces were braided along their
centresand folded into creases at the sides; orwhere the
flow was more rapidthe stream was pied with spots of white
frothwhich rode on in undisturbed serenity. On the higher
levels the dead and dry carcasses of leaves tapped the
ground as they bowled along helter-skelter upon the
shoulders of the windand little birds in the hedges were
rustling their feathers and tucking themselves in
comfortably for the nightretaining their places if Oak
kept movingbut flying away if he stopped to look at them.
He passed by Yalbury Wood where the game-birds were rising
to their roostsand heard the crack-voiced cock-pheasants
cu-uck, cuck,and the wheezy whistle of the hens.

By the time he had walked three or four miles every shape in
the landscape had assumed a uniform hue of blackness. He
descended Yalbury Hill and could just discern ahead of him a
waggondrawn up under a great over-hanging tree by the
roadside.

On coming closehe found there were no horses attached to
itthe spot being apparently quite deserted. The waggon
from its positionseemed to have been left there for the
nightfor beyond about half a truss of hay which was heaped
in the bottomit was quite empty. Gabriel sat down on the
shafts of the vehicle and considered his position. He
calculated that he had walked a very fair proportion of the
journey; and having been on foot since daybreakhe felt
tempted to lie down upon the hay in the waggon instead of
pushing on to the village of Weatherburyand having to pay
for a lodging.

Eating his last slices of bread and hamand drinking from
the bottle of cider he had taken the precaution to bring
with himhe got into the lonely waggon. Here he spread
half of the hay as a bedandas well as he could in the
darknesspulled the other half over him by way of bedclothes
covering himself entirelyand feelingphysically
as comfortable as ever he had been in his life. Inward
melancholy it was impossible for a man like Oak
introspective far beyond his neighboursto banish quite
whilst conning the present untoward page of his history.
Sothinking of his misfortunesamorous and pastoral he
fell asleepshepherds enjoyingin common with sailorsthe
privilege of being able to summon the god instead of having
to wait for him.

On somewhat suddenly awakingafter a sleep of whose length
he had no ideaOak found that the waggon was in motion. He
was being carried along the road at a rate rather
considerable for a vehicle without springsand under
circumstances of physical uneasinesshis head being dandled
up and down on the bed of the waggon like a kettledrumstick.
He then distinguished voices in conversationcoming
from the forpart of the waggon. His concern at this dilemma
(which would have been alarmhad he been a thriving man;
but misfortune is a fine opiate to personal terror) led him
to peer cautiously from the hayand the first sight he
beheld was the stars above him. Charles's Wain was getting
towards a right angle with the Pole starand Gabriel


concluded that it must be about nine o'clock -- in other
wordsthat he had slept two hours. This small astronomical
calculation was made without any positive effortand whilst
he was stealthily turning to discoverif possibleinto
whose hands he had fallen.

Two figures were dimly visible in frontsitting with their
legs outside the waggonone of whom was driving. Gabriel
soon found that this was the waggonerand it appeared they
had come from Casterbridge fairlike himself.

A conversation was in progresswhich continued thus: -


Be as 'twill, she's a fine handsome body as far's looks be
concerned. But that's only the skin of the woman, and these
dandy cattle be as proud as a lucifer in their insides.

Ay -- so 'a do seem, Billy Smallbury -- so 'a do seem.
This utterance was very shaky by natureand more so by
circumstancethe jolting of the waggon not being without
its effect upon the speaker's larynx. It came from the man
who held the reins.

She's a very vain feymell -- so 'tis said here and there.

Ah, now. If so be 'tis like that, I can't look her in the
face. Lord, no: not I -- heh-heh-heh! Such a shy man as I
be!

Yes -- she's very vain. 'Tis said that every night at
going to bed she looks in the glass to put on her night-cap
properly.

And not a married woman. Oh, the world!

And 'a can play the peanner, so 'tis said. Can play so
clever that 'a can make a psalm tune sound as well as the
merriest loose song a man can wish for.

D'ye tell o't! A happy time for us, and I feel quite a new
man! And how do she play?

That I don't know, Master Poorgrass.

On hearing these and other similar remarksa wild thought
flashed into Gabriel's mind that they might be speaking of
Bathsheba. There werehoweverno ground for retaining
such a suppositionfor the waggonthough going in the
direction of Weatherburymight be going beyond itand the
woman alluded to seemed to be the mistress of some estate.
They were now apparently close upon Weatherbury and not to
alarm the speakers unnecessarilyGabriel slipped out of the
waggon unseen.

He turned to an opening in the hedgewhich he found to be a
gateand mounting thereonhe sat meditating whether to
seek a cheap lodging in the villageor to ensure a cheaper
one by lying under some hay or corn-stack. The crunching
jangle of the waggon died upon his ear. He was about to
walk onwhen he noticed on his left hand an unusual light -appearing
about half a mile distant. Oak watched itand
the glow increased. Something was on fire.

Gabriel again mounted the gateandleaping down on the


other side upon what he found to be ploughed soilmade
across the field in the exact direction of the fire. The
blazeenlarging in a double ratio by his approach and its
own increaseshowed him as he drew nearer the outlines of
ricks beside itlighted up to great distinctness. A rickyard
was the source of the fire. His weary face now began
to be painted over with a rich orange glowand the whole
front of his smock-frock and gaiters was covered with a
dancing shadow pattern of thorn-twigs -- the light reaching
him through a leafless intervening hedge -- and the metallic
curve of his sheep-crook shone silver-bright in the same
abounding rays. He came up to the boundary fenceand stood
to regain breath. It seemed as if the spot was unoccupied
by a living soul.

The fire was issuing from a long straw-stackwhich was so
far gone as to preclude a possibility of saving it. A rick
burns differently from a house. As the wind blows the fire
inwardsthe portion in flames completely disappears like
melting sugarand the outline is lost to the eye. However
a hay or a wheat-rickwell put togetherwill resist
combustion for a length of timeif it begins on the
outside.

This before Gabriel's eyes was a rick of strawloosely put
togetherand the flames darted into it with lightning
swiftness. It glowed on the windward siderising and
falling in intensitylike the coal of a cigar. Then a
superincumbent bundle rolled downwith a whisking noise;
flames elongatedand bent themselves about with a quiet
roarbut no crackle. Banks of smoke went off horizontally
at the back like passing cloudsand behind these burned
hidden pyresilluminating the semi-transparent sheet of
smoke to a lustrous yellow uniformity. Individual straws in
the foreground were consumed in a creeping movement of ruddy
heatas if they were knots of red wormsand above shone
imaginary fiery facestongues hanging from lipsglaring
eyesand other impish formsfrom which at intervals sparks
flew in clusters like birds from a nest.

Oak suddenly ceased from being a mere spectator by
discovering the case to be more serious than he had at first
imagined. A scroll of smoke blew aside and revealed to him
a wheat-rick in startling juxtaposition with the decaying
oneand behind this a series of otherscomposing the main
corn produce of the farm; so that instead of the straw-stack
standingas he had imagined comparatively isolatedthere
was a regular connection between it and the remaining stacks
of the group.

Gabriel leapt over the hedgeand saw that he was not alone.
The first man he came to was running about in a great hurry
as if his thoughts were several yards in advance of his
bodywhich they could never drag on fast enough.

O, man -- fire, fire! A good master and a bad servant is
fire, fire! -- I mane a bad servant and a good master. Oh,
Mark Clark -- come! And you, Billy Smallbury -- and you,
Maryann Money -- and you, Jan Coggan, and Matthew there!
Other figures now appeared behind this shouting man and
among the smokeand Gabriel found thatfar from being
alone he was in a great company -- whose shadows danced
merrily up and downtimed by the jigging of the flamesand
not at all by their owners' movements. The assemblage -



belonging to that class of society which casts its thoughts
into the form of feelingand its feelings into the form of
commotion -- set to work with a remarkable confusion of
purpose.

Stop the draught under the wheat-rick!cried Gabriel to
those nearest to him. The corn stood on stone staddlesand
between thesetongues of yellow hue from the burning straw
licked and darted playfully. If the fire once got UNDER
this stackall would be lost.

Get a tarpaulin -- quick!said Gabriel.

A rick-cloth was broughtand they hung it like a curtain
across the channel. The flames immediately ceased to go
under the bottom of the corn-stackand stood up vertical.

Stand here with a bucket of water and keep the cloth wet.
said Gabriel again.

The flamesnow driven upwardsbegan to attack the angles
of the huge roof covering the wheat-stack.

A ladder,cried Gabriel.

The ladder was against the straw-rick and is burnt to a
cinder,said a spectre-like form in the smoke.

Oak seized the cut ends of the sheavesas if he were going
to engage in the operation of "reed-drawing and digging in
his feet, and occasionally sticking in the stem of his
sheep-crook, he clambered up the beetling face. He at once
sat astride the very apex, and began with his crook to beat
off the fiery fragments which had lodged thereon, shouting
to the others to get him a bough and a ladder, and some
water.

Billy Smallbury -- one of the men who had been on the waggon
-- by this time had found a ladder, which Mark Clark
ascended, holding on beside Oak upon the thatch. The smoke
at this corner was stifling, and Clark, a nimble fellow,
having been handed a bucket of water, bathed Oak's face and
sprinkled him generally, whilst Gabriel, now with a long
beech-bough in one hand, in addition to his crook in the
other, kept sweeping the stack and dislodging all fiery
particles.

On the ground the groups of villagers were still occupied in
doing all they could to keep down the conflagration, which
was not much. They were all tinged orange, and backed up by
shadows of varying pattern. Round the corner of the largest
stack, out of the direct rays of the fire, stood a pony,
bearing a young woman on its back. By her side was another
woman, on foot. These two seemed to keep at a distance from
the fire, that the horse might not become restive.

He's a shepherd said the woman on foot. Yes -- he is.
See how his crook shines as he beats the rick with it. And
his smock-frock is burnt in two holesI declare! A fine
young shepherd he is tooma'am."

Whose shepherd is he?said the equestrian in a clear
voice.


Don't know, ma'am.

Don't any of the others know?

Nobody at all -- I've asked 'em. Quite a stranger, they
say.

The young woman on the pony rode out from the shade and
looked anxiously around.

Do you think the barn is safe?she said.

D'ye think the barn is safe, Jan Coggan?said the second
womanpassing on the question to the nearest man in that
direction.

Safe-now -- leastwise I think so. If this rick had gone
the barn would have followed. 'Tis that bold shepherd up
there that have done the most good -- he sitting on the top
o' rick, whizzing his great long-arms about like a
windmill.

He does work hard,said the young woman on horseback
looking up at Gabriel through her thick woollen veil. "I
wish he was shepherd here. Don't any of you know his name."

Never heard the man's name in my life, or seed his form
afore.

The fire began to get worstedand Gabriel's elevated
position being no longer required of himhe made as if to
descend.

Maryann,said the girl on horsebackgo to him as he
comes down, and say that the farmer wishes to thank him for
the great service he has done.

Maryann stalked off towards the rick and met Oak at the foot
of the ladder. She delivered her message.

Where is your master the farmer?asked Gabrielkindling
with the idea of getting employment that seemed to strike
him now.

'Tisn't a master; 'tis a mistress, shepherd.

A woman farmer?

Ay, 'a b'lieve, and a rich one too!said a bystander.
Lately 'a came here from a distance. Took on her uncle's
farm, who died suddenly. Used to measure his money in halfpint
cups. They say now that she've business in every bank
in Casterbridge, and thinks no more of playing pitch-andtoss
sovereign than you and I, do pitch-halfpenny -- not a
bit in the world, shepherd.

That's she, back there upon the pony,said Maryann. "wi'
her face a-covered up in that black cloth with holes in it."

Oakhis features smudgedgrimyand undiscoverable from
the smoke and heathis smock-frock burnt into holes and
dripping with waterthe ash stem of his sheep-crook charred
six inches shorteradvansed with the humility stern
adversity had thrust upon him up to the slight female form


in the saddle. He lifted his hat with respectand not
without gallantry: stepping close to her hanging feet he
said in a hesitating voice-


Do you happen to want a shepherd, ma'am?

She lifted the wool veil tied round her faceand looked all
astonishment. Gabriel and his cold-hearted darling
Bathsheba Everdenewere face to face.

Bathsheba did not speakand he mechanically repeated in an
abashed and sad voice-


Do you want a shepherd, ma'am?

CHAPTER VII

RECOGNITION -- A TIMID GIRL

BATHSHEBA withdrew into the shade. She scarcely knew
whether most to be amused at the singularity of the meeting
or to be concerned at its awkwardness. There was room for a
little pityalso for a very little exultation: the former
at his positionthe latter at her own. Embarrassed she was
notand she remembered Gabriel's declaration of love to her
at Norcombe only to think she had nearly forgotten it.

Yes,she murmuredputting on an air of dignityand
turning again to him with a little warmth of cheek; "I do
want a shepherd. But ----"

He's the very man, ma'am,said one of the villagers
quietly.

Conviction breeds conviction. "Aythat 'a is said a
second, decisively.

The mantruly!" said a thirdwith heartiness."

He's all there!said number fourfervidly.

Then will you tell him to speak to the bailiff, said
Bathsheba.

All was practical again now. A summer eve and loneliness
would have been necessary to give the meeting its proper
fulness of romance.

The bailiff was pointed out to Gabriel, who, checking the
palpitation within his breast at discovering that this
Ashtoreth of strange report was only a modification of Venus
the well-known and admired, retired with him to talk over
the necessary preliminaries of hiring.

The fire before them wasted away. Men said Bathsheba,
you shall take a little refreshment after this extra work.
Will you come to the house?"

We could knock in a bit and a drop a good deal freer, Miss,
if so be ye'd send it to Warren's Malthouse,replied the
spokesman.


Bathsheba then rode off into the darknessand the men
straggled on to the village in twos and threes -- Oak and
the bailiff being left by the rick alone.

And now,said the bailifffinallyall is settled, I
think, about your coming, and I am going home-along. Goodnight
to ye, shepherd.

Can you get me a lodging?inquired Gabriel.

That I can't, indeed,he saidmoving past Oak as a
Christian edges past an offertory-plate when he does not
mean to contribute. "If you follow on the road till you
come to Warren's Malthousewhere they are all gone to have
their snap of victualsI daresay some of 'em will tell you
of a place. Good-night to yeshepherd."

The bailiff who showed this nervous dread of loving his
neighbour as himselfwent up the hilland Oak walked on to
the villagestill astonished at the rencounter with
Bathshebaglad of his nearness to herand perplexed at the
rapidity with which the unpractised girl of Norcombe had
developed into the supervising and cool woman here. But
some women only require an emergency to make them fit for
one.

Obligedto some extentto forgo dreaming in order to find
the wayhe reached the churchyardand passed round it
under the wall where several ancient trees grew. There was
a wide margin of grass along hereand Gabriel's footsteps
were deadened by its softnesseven at this indurating
period of the year. When abreast of a trunk which appeared
to be the oldest of the oldhe became aware that a figure
was standing behind it. Gabriel did not pause in his walk
and in another moment he accidentally kicked a loose stone.
The noise was enough to disturb the motionless strangerwho
started and assumed a careless position.

It was a slim girlrather thinly clad.

Good-night to you,said Gabrielheartily.

Good-night,said the girl to Gabriel.

The voice was unexpectedly attractive; it was the low and
dulcet note suggestive of romance; common in descriptions
rare in experience.

I'll thank you to tell me if I'm in the way for Warren's
Malthouse?Gabriel resumedprimarily to gain the
informationindirectly to get more of the music.

Quite right. It's at the bottom of the hill. And do you
know ----The girl hesitated and then went on again. "Do
you know how late they keep open the Buck's Head Inn?" She
seemed to be won by Gabriel's heartinessas Gabriel had
been won by her modulations.

I don't know where the Buck's Head is, or anything about
it. Do you think of going there to-night?

Yes ----The woman again paused. There was no necessity
for any continuance of speechand the fact that she did add


more seemed to proceed from an unconscious desire to show
unconcern by making a remarkwhich is noticeable in the
ingenuous when they are acting by stealth. "You are not a
Weatherbury man?" she saidtimorously.

I am not. I am the new shepherd -- just arrived.

Only a shepherd -- and you seem almost a farmer by your
ways.

Only a shepherd,Gabriel repeatedin a dull cadence of
finality. "His thoughts were directed to the pasthis eyes
to the feet of the girl; and for the first time he saw lying
there a bundle of some sort. She may have perceived the
direction of his facefor she said coaxingly-


You won't say anything in the parish about having seen me
here, will you -- at least, not for a day or two?

I won't if you wish me not to,said Oak.

Thank you, indeed,the other replied. "I am rather poor
and I don't want people to know anything about me." Then
she was silent and shivered.

You ought to have a cloak on such a cold night,Gabriel
observed. "I would advise 'ee to get indoors."

O no! Would you mind going on and leaving me? I thank you
much for what you have told me.

I will go on,he said; adding hesitatingly-- "Since you
are not very well offperhaps you would accept this trifle
from me. It is only a shillingbut it is all I have to
spare."

Yes, I will take it,said the stranger gratefully.

She extended her hand; Gabriel his. In feeling for each
other's palm in the gloom before the money could be passed
a minute incident occurred which told much. Gabriel's
fingers alighted on the young woman's wrist. It was beating
with a throb of tragic intensity. He had frequently felt
the same quickhard beat in the femoral artery of -- his
lambs when overdriven. It suggested a consumption too great
of a vitality whichto judge from her figure and stature
was already too little.

What is the matter?

Nothing.

But there is?

No, no, no! Let your having seen me be a secret!

Very well; I will. Good-night, again.

Good-night.

The young girl remained motionless by the treeand Gabriel
descended into the village of Weatherburyor Lower
Longpuddle as it was sometimes called. He fancied that he
had felt himself in the penumbra of a very deep sadness when


touching that slight and fragile creature. But wisdom lies
in moderating mere impressionsand Gabriel endeavoured to
think little of this.

CHAPTER VIII

THE MALTHOUSE -- THE CHAT -- NEWS

WARREN'S Malthouse was enclosed by an old wall inwrapped
with ivyand though not much of the exterior was visible at
this hourthe character and purposes of the building were
clearly enough shown by its outline upon the sky. From the
walls an overhanging thatched roof sloped up to a point in
the centreupon which rose a small wooden lanternfitted
with louvre-boards on all the four sidesand from these
openings a mist was dimly perceived to be escaping into the
night air. There was no window in front; but a square hole
in the door was glazed with a single panethrough which
redcomfortable rays now stretched out upon the ivied wall
in front. Voices were to be heard inside.

Oak's hand skimmed the surface of the door with fingers
extended to an Elymas-the-Sorcerer patterntill he found a
leathern strapwhich he pulled. This lifted a wooden
latchand the door swung open.

The room inside was lighted only by theruddy glow from the
kiln mouthwhich shone over the floor with the streaming
horizontality of the setting sunand threw upwards the
shadows of all facial irregularities in those assembled
around. The stone-flag floor was worn into a path from the
doorway to the kilnand into undulations everywhere. A
curved settle of unplaned oak stretched along one sideand
in a remote corner was a small bed and bedsteadthe owner
and frequent occupier of which was the maltster.

This aged man was now sitting opposite the firehis frosty
white hair and beard overgrowing his gnarled figure like the
grey moss and lichen upon a leafless apple-tree. He wore
breeches and the laced-up shoes called ankle-jacks; he kept
his eyes fixed upon the fire.

Gabriel's nose was greeted by an atmosphere laden with the
sweet smell of new malt. The conversation (which seemed to
have been concerning the origin of the fire) immediately
ceasedand every one ocularly criticised him to the degree
expressed by contracting the flesh of their foreheads and
looking at him with narrowed eyelidsas if he had been a
light too strong for their sight. Several exclaimed
meditativelyafter this operation had been completed: -


Oh, 'tis the new shepherd, 'a b'lieve.

We thought we heard a hand pawing about the door for the
bobbin, but weren't sure 'twere not a dead leaf blowed
across,said another. "Come inshepherd; sure ye be
welcomethough we don't know yer name."

Gabriel Oak, that's my name, neighbours.

The ancient maltster sitting in the midst turned up this -



his turning being as the turning of a rusty crane.

That's never Gable Oak's grandson over at Norcombe -never!
he saidas a formula expressive of surprisewhich
nobody was supposed for a moment to take literally.

My father and my grandfather were old men of the name of
Gabriel,said the shepherdplacidly.

Thought I knowed the man's face as I seed him on the rick!
-- thought I did! And where be ye trading o't to now,
shepherd?

I'm thinking of biding here,said Mr. Oak.

Knowed yer grandfather for years and years!continued the
maltsterthe words coming forth of their own accord as if
the momentum previously imparted had been sufficient.

Ah -- and did you!

Knowed yer grandmother.

And her too!

Likewise knowed yer father when he was a child. Why, my
boy Jacob there and your father were sworn brothers -- that
they were sure -- weren't ye, Jacob?

Ay, sure,said his sona young man about sixty-fivewith
a semi-bald head and one tooth in the left centre of his
upper jawwhich made much of itself by standing prominent
like a milestone in a bank. "But 'twas Joe had most to do
with him. Howevermy son William must have knowed the very
man afore us -- didn't yeBillyafore ye left Norcombe?"

No, 'twas Andrew,said Jacob's son Billya child of
fortyor thereaboutswho manifested the peculiarity of
possessing a cheerful soul in a gloomy bodyand whose
whiskers were assuming a chinchilla shade here and there.

I can mind Andrew,said Oakas being a man in the place
when I was quite a child.

Ay -- the other day I and my youngest daughter, Liddy, were
over at my grandson's christening,continued Billy. "We
were talking about this very familyand 'twas only last
Purification Day in this very worldwhen the use-money is
gied away to the second-best poor folkyou knowshepherd
and I can mind the day because they all had to traypse up to
the vestry -- yesthis very man's family."

Come, shepherd, and drink. 'Tis gape and swaller with us -a
drap of sommit, but not of much account,said the
maltsterremoving from the fire his eyeswhich were
vermilion-red and bleared by gazing into it for so many
years. "Take up the God-forgive-meJacob. See if 'tis
warmJacob."

Jacob stooped to the God-forgive-mewhich was a two-handled
tall mug standing in the ashescracked and charred with
heat: it was rather furred with extraneous matter about the
outsideespecially in the crevices of the handlesthe
innermost curves of which may not have seen daylight for


several years by reason of this encrustation thereon -formed
of ashes accidentally wetted with cider and baked
hard; but to the mind of any sensible drinker the cup was no
worse for thatbeing incontestably clean on the inside and
about the rim. It may be observed that such a class of mug
is called a God-forgive-me in Weatherbury and its vicinity
for uncertain reasons; probably because its size makes any
given toper feel ashamed of himself when he sees its bottom
in drinking it empty.

Jacobon receiving the order to see if the liquor was warm
enoughplacidly dipped his forefinger into it by way of
thermometerand having pronounced it nearly of the proper
degreeraised the cup and very civilly attempted to dust
some of the ashes from the bottom with the skirt of his
smock-frockbecause Shepherd Oak was a stranger.

A clane cup for the shepherd,said the maltster
commandingly.

No -- not at all,said Gabrielin a reproving tone of
considerateness. "I never fuss about dirt in its pure
stateand when I know what sort it is." Taking the mug he
drank an inch or more from the depth of its contentsand
duly passed it to the next man. "I wouldn't think of giving
such trouble to neighbours in washing up when there's so
much work to be done in the world already." continued Oak in
a moister toneafter recovering from the stoppage of breath
which is occasioned by pulls at large mugs.

A right sensible man,said Jacob.

True, true; it can't be gainsaid!observed a brisk young
man -- Mark Clark by namea genial and pleasant gentleman
whom to meet anywhere in your travels was to knowto know
was to drink withand to drink with wasunfortunatelyto
pay for.

And here's a mouthful of bread and bacon that mis'ess have
sent, shepherd. The cider will go down better with a bit of
victuals. Don't ye chaw quite close, shepherd, for I let
the bacon fall in the road outside as I was bringing it
along, and may be 'tis rather gritty. There, 'tis clane
dirt; and we all know what that is, as you say, and you
bain't a particular man we see, shepherd.

True, true -- not at all,said the friendly Oak.

Don't let your teeth quite meet, and you won't feel the
sandiness at all. Ah! 'tis wonderful what can be done by
contrivance!

My own mind exactly, neighbour.

Ah, he's his grandfer's own grandsonn! -- his grandfer were
just such a nice unparticular man!said the maltster.

Drink, Henry Fray -- drink,magnanimously said Jan Coggan
a person who held Saint-Simonian notions of share and share
alike where liquor was concernedas the vessel showed signs
of approaching him in its gradual revolution among them.

Having at this moment reached the end of a wistful gaze into
mid-airHenry did not refuse. He was a man of more than


middle agewith eyebrows high up in his foreheadwho laid
it down that the law of the world was badwith a longsuffering
look through his listeners at the world alluded
toas it presented itself to his imagination. He always
signed his name "Henery" -- strenuously insisting upon that
spellingand if any passing schoolmaster ventured to remark
that the second "e" was superfluous and old-fashionedhe
received the reply that "H-e-n-e-r-y" was the name he was
christened and the name he would stick to -- in the tone of
one to whom orthographical differences were matters which
had a great deal to do with personal character.

Mr. Jan Cogganwho had passed the cup to Henerywas a
crimson man with a spacious countenanceand private glimmer
in his eyewhose name had appeared on the marriage register
of Weatherbury and neighbouring parishes as best man and
chief witness in countless unions of the previous twenty
years; he also very frequently filled the post of head
godfather in baptisms of the subtly-jovial kind.

Come, Mark Clark -- come. Ther's plenty more in the
barrel,said Jan.

Ay -- that I will, 'tis my only doctor,replied Mr. Clark
whotwenty years younger than Jan Cogganrevolved in the
same orbit. He secreted mirth on all occasions for special
discharge at popular parties.

Why, Joseph Poorgrass, ye han't had a drop!said Mr.
Coggan to a self-conscious man in the backgroundthrusting
the cup towards him.

Such a modest man as he is!said Jacob Smallbury. "Why
ye've hardly had strength of eye enough to look in our young
mis'ess's faceso I hearJoseph?"

All looked at Joseph Poorgrass with pitying reproach.

No -- I've hardly looked at her at all,simpered Joseph
reducing his body smaller whilst talkingapparently from a
meek sense of undue prominence. "And when I seed her'twas
nothing but blushes with me!"

Poor feller,said Mr. Clark.

'Tis a curious nature for a man,said Jan Coggan.

Yes,continued Joseph Poorgrass -- his shynesswhich was
so painful as a defectfilling him with a mild complacency
now that it was regarded as an interesting study. "'Twere
blushblushblush with me every minute of the timewhen
she was speaking to me."

I believe ye, Joseph Poorgrass, for we all know ye to be a
very bashful man.

'Tis a' awkward gift for a man, poor soul,said the
maltster. "And how long have ye have suffered from it
Joseph?"

[Alternate text: appears in all three additions on hand:
'Tis a' awkward gift for a man, poor soul,said the
maltster. "And ye have suffered from it a long timewe
know."


Ay, ever since...]

Oh, ever since I was a boy. Yes -- mother was concerned to
her heart about it -- yes. But 'twas all nought.

Did ye ever go into the world to try and stop it, Joseph
Poorgrass?

Oh ay, tried all sorts o' company. They took me to
Greenhill Fair, and into a great gay jerry-go-nimble show,
where there were women-folk riding round -- standing upon
horses, with hardly anything on but their smocks; but it
didn't cure me a morsel. And then I was put errand-man at
the Women's Skittle Alley at the back of the Tailor's Arms
in Casterbridge. 'Twas a horrible sinful situation, and a
very curious place for a good man. I had to stand and look
ba'dy people in the face from morning till night; but 'twas
no use -- I was just as-bad as ever after all. Blushes hev
been in the family for generations. There, 'tis a happy
providence that I be no worse.

True,said Jacob Smallburydeepening his thoughts to a
profounder view of the subject. "'Tis a thought to look at
that ye might have been worse; but even as you be'tis a
very bad affliction for 'eeJoseph. For ye seeshepherd
though 'tis very well for a womandang it all'tis awkward
for a man like himpoor feller?"

'Tis -- 'tis,said Gabrielrecovering from a meditation.
Yes, very awkward for the man.

Ay, and he's very timid, too,observed Jan Coggan. "Once
he had been working late at Yalbury Bottomand had had a
drap of drinkand lost his way as he was coming home-along
through Yalbury Wooddidn't yeMaster Poorgrass?"

No, no, no; not that story!expostulated the modest man
forcing a laugh to bury his concern.

---- And so 'a lost himself quite,continued Mr. Coggan
with an impassive faceimplying that a true narrativelike
time and tidemust run its course and would respect no man.
And as he was coming along in the middle of the night, much
afeared, and not able to find his way out of the trees
nohow, 'a cried out, 'Man-a-lost! man-a-lost!' A owl in a
tree happened to be crying Whoo-whoo-whoo!" as owls doyou
knowshepherd" (Gabriel nodded)and Joseph, all in a
tremble, said, 'Joseph Poorgrass, of Weatherbury, sir!'

No, no, now -- that's too much!said the timid man
becoming a man of brazen courage all of a sudden. "I didn't
say sir. I'll tike my oath I didn't say 'Joseph Poorgrass
o' Weatherburysir.' Nono; what's right is rightand I
never said sir to the birdknowing very well that no man of
a gentleman's rank would be hollering there at that time o'
night. 'Joseph Poorgrass of Weatherbury' -- that's every
word I saidand I shouldn't ha' said that if 't hadn't been
for Keeper Day's metheglin.... There'twas a merciful
thing it ended where it did."

The question of which was right being tacitly waived by the
companyJan went on meditatively: -



And he's the fearfullest man, bain't ye, Joseph? Ay,
another time ye were lost by Lambing-Down Gate, weren't ye,
Joseph?

I was,replied Poorgrassas if there were some conditions
too serious even for modesty to remember itself underthis
being one.

Yes; that were the middle of the night, too. The gate
would not open, try how he would, and knowing there was the
Devil's hand in it, he kneeled down.

Ay,said Josephacquiring confidence from the warmth of
the firethe ciderand a perception of the narrative
capabilities of the experience alluded to. "My heart died
within methat time; but I kneeled down and said the Lord's
Prayerand then the Belief right throughand then the Ten
Commandmentsin earnest prayer. But nothe gate wouldn't
open; and then I went on with Dearly Beloved Brethrenand
thinks Ithis makes fourand 'tis all I know out of book
and if this don't do it nothing willand I'm a lost man.
Wellwhen I got to Saying After MeI rose from my knees
and found the gate would open -- yesneighboursthe gate
opened the same as ever."

A meditation on the obvious inference was indulged in by
alland during its continuance each directed his vision
into the ashpitwhich glowed like a desert in the tropics
under a vertical sunshaping their eyes long and liny
partly because of the lightpartly from the depth of the
subject discussed.

Gabriel broke the silence. "What sort of a place is this to
live atand what sort of a mis'ess is she to work under?"
Gabriel's bosom thrilled gently as he thus slipped under the
notice of the assembly the inner-most subject of his heart.

We d' know little of her -- nothing. She only showed
herself a few days ago. Her uncle was took bad, and the
doctor was called with his world-wide skill; but he couldn't
save the man. As I take it, she's going to keep on the
farm.

That's about the shape o't'a b'lieve said Jan Coggan.
Ay'tis a very good family. I'd as soon be under 'em as
under one here and there. Her uncle was a very fair sort of
man. Did ye know enshepherd -- a bachelor-man?"

Not at all.

I used to go to his house a-courting my first wife,
Charlotte, who was his dairymaid. Well, a very good-hearted
man were Farmer Everdene, and I being a respectable young
fellow was allowed to call and see her and drink as much ale
as I liked, but not to carry away any -- outside my skin I
mane of course.

Ay, ay, Jan Coggan; we know yer maning.

And so you see 'twas beautiful ale, and I wished to value
his kindness as much as I could, and not to be so illmannered
as to drink only a thimbleful, which would have
been insulting the man's generosity ----


True, Master Coggan, 'twould so,corroborated Mark Clark.

---- And so I used to eat a lot of salt fish afore going,
and then by the time I got there I were as dry as a lime-
basket -- so thorough dry that that ale would slip down -ah,
'twould slip down sweet! Happy times! heavenly times!
Such lovely drunks as I used to have at that house! You can
mind, Jacob? You used to go wi' me sometimes.

I can -- I can,said Jacob. "That onetoothat we had
at Buck's Head on a White Monday was a pretty tipple."

'Twas. But for a wet of the better class, that brought you
no nearer to the horned man than you were afore you begun,
there was none like those in Farmer Everdene's kitchen. Not
a single damn allowed; no, not a bare poor one, even at the
most cheerful moment when all were blindest, though the good
old word of sin thrown in here and there at such times is a
great relief to a merry soul.

True,said the maltster. "Nater requires her swearing at
the regular timesor she's not herself; and unholy
exclamations is a necessity of life."

But Charlotte,continued Coggan -- "not a word of the sort
would Charlotte allownor the smallest item of taking in
vain.... Aypoor CharlotteI wonder if she had the good
fortune to get into Heaven when 'a died! But 'a was never
much in luck's wayand perhaps 'a went downwards after all
poor soul."

And did any of you know Miss Everdene's father and mother?
inquired the shepherdwho found some difficulty in keeping
the conversation in the desired channel.

I knew them a little,said Jacob Smallbury; "but they were
townsfolkand didn't live here. They've been dead for
years. Fatherwhat sort of people were mis'ess' father and
mother?"

Well,said the maltsterhe wasn't much to look at; but
she was a lovely woman. He was fond enough of her as his
sweetheart.

Used to kiss her scores and long-hundreds o' times, so
'twas said,observed Coggan.

He was very proud of her, too, when they were married, as
I've been told,said the maltster.

Ay,said Coggan. "He admired her so much that he used to
light the candle three time a night to look at her."

Boundless love; I shouldn't have supposed it in the
universe!murmered Joseph Poorgrasswho habitually spoke
on a large scale in his moral reflections.

Well, to be sure,said Gabriel.

Oh, 'tis true enough. I knowed the man and woman both
well. Levi Everdene -- that was the man's name, sure.
Man saith I in my hurry, but he were of a higher circle
of life than that -- 'a was a gentleman-tailor really, worth
scores of pounds. And he became a very celebrated bankrupt


two or three times.

Oh, I thought he was quite a common man!said Joseph.

Oh no, no! That man failed for heaps of money; hundreds in
gold and silver.

The maltster being rather short of breathMr. Cogganafter
absently scrutinising a coal which had fallen among the
ashestook up the narrativewith a private twirl of his
eye: -


Well, now, you'd hardly believe it, but that man -- our
Miss Everdene's father -- was one of the ficklest husbands
alive, after a while. Understand? 'a didn't want to be
fickle, but he couldn't help it. The pore feller were
faithful and true enough to her in his wish, but his heart
would rove, do what he would. He spoke to me in real
tribulation about it once. Coggan he said, I could
never wish for a handsomer woman than I've gotbut feeling
she's ticketed as my lawful wifeI can't help my wicked
heart wanderingdo what I will." But at last I believe he
cured it by making her take off her wedding-ring and calling
her by her maiden name as they sat together after the shop
was shutand so 'a would get to fancy she was only his
sweetheartand not married to him at all. And as soon as
he could thoroughly fancy he was doing wrong and committing
the seventh'a got to like her as well as everand they
lived on a perfect picture of mutel love."

Well, 'twas a most ungodly remedy,murmured Joseph
Poorgrass; "but we ought to feel deep cheerfulness that a
happy Providence kept it from being any worse. You seehe
might have gone the bad road and given his eyes to
unlawfulness entirely -- yesgross unlawfulnessso to say
it."

You see,said Billy SmallburyThe man's will was to do
right, sure enough, but his heart didn't chime in.

He got so much better, that he was quite godly in his later
years, wasn't he, Jan?said Joseph Poorgrass. "He got
himself confirmed over again in a more serious wayand took
to saying 'Amen' almost as loud as the clerkand he liked
to copy comforting verses from the tombstones. He used
tooto hold the money-plate at Let Your Light so Shineand
stand godfather to poor little come-by-chance children; and
he kept a missionary box upon his table to nab folks
unawares when they called; yesand he would box the
charity-boys' earsif they laughed in churchtill they
could hardly stand uprightand do other deeds of piety
natural to the saintly inclined."

Ay, at that time he thought of nothing but high things,
added Billy Smallbury. "One day Parson Thirdly met him and
said'Good-MorningMister Everdene; 'tis a fine day!'
'Amen' said Everdenequite absent-likethinking only of
religion when he seed a parson. Yeshe was a very
Christian man."

Their daughter was not at all a pretty chiel at that time,
said Henery Fray. "Never should have thought she'd have
growed up such a handsome body as she is."


'Tis to be hoped her temper is as good as her face.

Well, yes; but the baily will have most to do with the
business and ourselves. Ah!Henery gazed into the ashpit
and smiled volumes of ironical knowledge.

A queer Christian, like the Devil's head in a cowl,[1] as
the saying is,volunteered Mark Clark.

[1] This phrase is a conjectural emendation of the
unintelligible expressionas the Devil said to the Owl,
used by the natives.
He is,said Heneryimplying that irony must cease at a
certain point. "Between we twoman and manI believe that
man would as soon tell a lie Sundays as working-days -- that
I do so."

Good faith, you do talk!said Gabriel.

True enough,said the man of bitter moodslooking round
upon the company with the antithetic laughter that comes
from a keener appreciation of the miseries of life than
ordinary men are capable of. 'Ahthere's people of one
sortand people of anotherbut that man -- bless your
souls!"

Gabriel thought fit to change the subject. "You must be a
very aged manmalterto have sons growed mild and ancient"
he remarked.

Father's so old that 'a can't mind his age, can ye,
father?interposed Jacob. "And he's growed terrible
crooked toolately Jacob continued, surveying his
father's figure, which was rather more bowed than his own.
Really one may say that father there is three-double."

Crooked folk will last a long while,said the maltster
grimlyand not in the best humour.

Shepherd would like to hear the pedigree of yer life,
father -- wouldn't ye, shepherd?

Ay that I should,said Gabriel with the heartiness of a
man who had longed to hear it for several months. "What may
your age bemalter?"

The maltster cleared his throat in an exaggerated form for
emphasisand elongating his gaze to the remotest point of
the ashpitsaidin the slow speech justifiable when the
importance of a subject is so generally felt that any
mannerism must be tolerated in getting at itWell, I don't
mind the year I were born in, but perhaps I can reckon up
the places I've lived at, and so get it that way. I bode at
Upper Longpuddle across there(nodding to the north) "till
I were eleven. I bode seven at Kingsbere" (nodding to the
east) "where I took to malting. I went therefrom to
Norcombeand malted there two-and-twenty yearsand-twoand-
twenty years I was there turnip-hoeing and harvesting.
AhI knowed that old placeNorcombeyears afore you were
thought ofMaster Oak" (Oak smiled sincere belief in the
fact). "Then I malted at Durnover four yearand four year
turnip-hoeing; and I was fourteen times eleven months at
Millpond St. Jude's" (nodding north-west-by-north). "Old


Twills wouldn't hire me for more than eleven months at a
timeto keep me from being chargeable to the parish if so
be I was disabled. Then I was three year at Mellstock
and I've been here one-and-thirty year come Candlemas. How
much is that?"

Hundred and seventeen,chuckled another old gentleman
given to mental arithmetic and little conversationwho had
hitherto sat unobserved in a corner.

Well, then, that's my age,said the maltster
emphatically.

O no, father!said Jacob. "Your turnip-hoeing were in the
summer and your malting in the winter of the same yearsand
ye don't ought to count-both halves father."

Chok' it all! I lived through the summers, didn't I? That's
my question. I suppose ye'll say next I be no age at all to
speak of?

Sure we shan't,said Gabrielsoothingly.

Ye be a very old aged person, malter,attested Jan Coggan
also soothingly. "We all know thatand ye must have a
wonderful talented constitution to be able to live so long
mustn't heneighbours?"

True, true; ye must, malter, wonderful,said the meeting
unanimously.

The maltsterbeing know pacifiedwas even generous enough
to voluntarily disparage in a slight degree the virtue of
having lived a great many yearsby mentioning that the cup
they were drinking out of was three years older than he.

While the cup was being examinedthe end of Gabriel Oak's
flute became visible over his smock-frock pocketand Henery
Fray exclaimedSurely, shepherd, I seed you blowing into a
great flute by now at Casterbridge?

You did,said Gabrielblushing faintly. "I've been in
great troubleneighboursand was driven to it. I used not
to be so poor as I be now."

Never mind, heart!said Mark Clark. You should take it
careless-likeshepherdand your time will come. But we
could thank ye for a tuneif ye bain't too tired?"

Neither drum nor trumpet have I heard since Christmas,
said Jan Coggan. "Comeraise a tuneMaster Oak!"

Ay, that I will,said Gabrielpulling out his flute and
putting it together. "A poor toolneighbours; but such as
I can do ye shall have and welcome."

Oak then struck up "Jockey to the Fair and played that
sparkling melody three times through accenting the notes in
the third round in a most artistic and lively manner by
bending his body in small jerks and tapping with his foot to
beat time.

He can blow the flute very well -- that 'a can said a
young married man, who having no individuality worth


mentioning was known as Susan Tall's husband." He
continuedI'd as lief as not be able to blow into a flute
as well as that.

He's a clever man, and 'tis a true comfort for us to have
such a shepherd,murmured Joseph Poorgrassin a soft
cadence. "We ought to feel full o' thanksgiving that he's
not a player of ba'dy songs 'instead of these merry tunes;
for 'twould have been just as easy for God to have made the
shepherd a loose low man -- a man of iniquityso to speak
it -- as what he is. Yesfor our wives' and daughters'
sakes we should feel real thanks giving."

True, true, -- real thanksgiving!dashed in Mark Clark
conclusivelynot feeling it to be of any consequence to his
opinion that he had only heard about a word and threequarters
of what Joseph had said.

Yes,added Josephbeginning to feel like a man in the
Bible; "for evil do thrive so in these times that ye may be
as much deceived in the cleanest shaved and whitest shirted
man as in the raggedest tramp upon the turnpikeif I may
term it so."

Ay, I can mind yer face now, shepherd,said Henery Fray
criticising Gabriel with misty eyes as he entered upon his
second tune. "Yes -- now I see 'ee blowing into the flute I
know 'ee to be the same man I see play at Casterbridgefor
yer mouth were scrimped up and yer eyes a-staring out like a
strangled man's -- just as they be now."

'Tis a pity that playing the flute should make a man look
such a scarecrow,observed Mr. Mark Clarkwith additional
criticism of Gabriel's countenancethe latter person
jerking outwith the ghastly grimace required by the
instrumentthe chorus of "Dame Durden:" -


'Twas Moll' and Bet'and Doll' and Kate'
And Dor'-othy Drag'-gle Tail'.

I hope you don't mind that young man's bad manners in
naming your features?whispered Joseph to Gabriel.

Not at all,said Mr. Oak.

For by nature ye be a very handsome man, shepherd,
continued Joseph Poorgrasswith winning sauvity.

Ay, that ye be, shepard,said the company.

Thank you very much,said Oakin the modest tone good
manners demandedthinkinghoweverthat he would never let
Bathsheba see him playing the flute; in this resolve showing
a discretion equal to that related to its sagacious
inventressthe divine Minerva herself.

Ah, when I and my wife were married at Norcombe Church,
said the old maltsternot pleased at finding himself left
out of the subject "we were called the handsomest couple in
the neighbourhood -- everybody said so."

Danged if ye bain't altered now, malter,said a voice with
the vigour natural to the enunciation of a remarkably
evident truism. It came from the old man in the background


whose offensiveness and spiteful ways were barely atoned for
by the occasional chuckle he contributed to general laughs.

O no, no,said Gabriel.

Don't ye play no more shepherdsaid Susan Tall's husband
the young married man who had spoken once before. "I must
be moving and when there's tunes going on I seem as if hung
in wires. If I thought after I'd left that music was still
playingand I not thereI should be quite melancholylike."


What's yer hurry then, Laban?inquired Coggan. "You used
to bide as late as the latest."

Well, ye see, neighbours, I was lately married to a woman,
and she's my vocation now, and so ye see ----The young
man halted lamely.

New Lords new laws, as the saying is, I suppose,remarked
Coggan.

Ay, 'a b'lieve -- ha, ha!said Susan Tall's husbandin a
tone intended to imply his habitual reception of jokes
without minding them at all. The young man then wished them
good-night and withdrew.

Henery Fray was the first to follow. Then Gabriel arose and
went off with Jan Cogganwho had offered him a lodging. A
few minutes laterwhen the remaining ones were on their
legs and about to departFray came back again in a hurry.
Flourishing his finger ominously he threw a gaze teeming
with tidings just where his eye alighted by accidentwhich
happened to be in Joseph Poorgrass's face.

O -- what's the matter, what's the matter, Henery?said
Josephstarting back.

What's a-brewing, Henrey?asked Jacob and Mark Clark.

Baily Pennyways -- Baily Pennyways -- I said so; yes, I
said so!

What, found out stealing anything?

Stealing it is. The news is, that after Miss Everdene got
home she went out again to see all was safe, as she usually
do, and coming in found Baily Pennyways creeping down the
granary steps with half a a bushel of barley. She fleed at
him like a cat -- never such a tomboy as she is -- of course
I speak with closed doors?

You do -- you do, Henery.

She fleed at him, and, to cut a long story short, he owned
to having carried off five sack altogether, upon her
promising not to persecute him. Well, he's turned out neck
and crop, and my question is, who's going to be baily now?

The question was such a profound one that Henery was obliged
to drink there and then from the large cup till the bottom
was distinctly visible inside. Before he had replaced it on
the tablein came the young manSusan Tall's husbandin a
still greater hurry.


Have ye heard the news that's all over parish?

About Baily Pennyways?

But besides that?

No -- not a morsel of it!they repliedlooking into the
very midst of Laban Tall as if to meet his words half-way
down his throat.

What a night of horrors!murmured Joseph Poorgrasswaving
his hands spasmodically. "I've had the news-bell ringing in
my left ear quite bad enough for a murderand I've seen a
magpie all alone!"

Fanny Robin -- Miss everdene's youngest servant -- can't be
found. They've been wanting to lock up the door these two
hours, but she isn't come in. And they don't know what to
do about going to hed for fear of locking her out. They
wouldn't be so concerned if she hadn't been noticed in such
low spirits these last few days, and Maryann d' think the
beginning of a crowner's inquest has happened to the poor
girl.

Oh -- 'tis burned -- 'tis burned!came from Joseph
Poorgrass's dry lips.

No -- 'tis drowned!said Tall.

Or 'tis her father's razor!suggested Billy Smallbury
with a vivid sense of detail.

Well -- Miss Everdene wants to speak to one or two of us
before we go to bed. What with this trouble about the
baily, and now about the girl, mis'ess is almost wild.

They all hastened up the lane to the farmhouseexcepting
the old maltsterwhom neither newsfirerainnor thunder
could draw from his hole. Thereas the others' footsteps
died away he sat down again and continued gazing as usual
into the furnace with his redbleared eyes.

From the bedroom window above their heads Bathsheba's head
and shouldersrobed in mystic whitewere dimly seen
extended into the air.

Are any of my men among you?she said anxiously.

Yes, ma'am, several,said Susan Tall's husband.

To-morrow morning I wish two or three of you to make
inquiries in the villages round if they have seen such a
person as Fanny Robin. Do it quietly; there is no reason
for alarm as yet. She must have left whilst we were all at
the fire.

I beg yer pardon, but had she any young man courting her in
the parish, ma'am?asked Jacob Smallbury.

I don't know,said Bathsheba.

I've never heard of any such thing, ma'am,said two or
three.


It is hardly likely, either,continued Bathsheba. "For
any lover of hers might have come to the house if he had
been a respectable lad. The most mysterious matter
connected with her absence -- indeedthe only thing which
gives me serious alarm -- is that she was seen to go out of
the house by Maryann with only her indoor working gown on -not
even a bonnet."

And you mean, ma'am, excusing my words, that a young woman
would hardly go to see her young man without dressing up,
said Jacobturning his mental vision upon past experiences.
That's true -- she would not, ma'am.

She had, I think, a bundle, though I couldn't see very
well,said a female voice from another windowwhich seemed
that of Maryann. "But she had no young man about here.
Hers lives in Casterbridgeand I believe he's a soldier."

Do you know his name?Bathsheba said.

No, mistress; she was very close about it.

Perhaps I might be able to find out if I went to
Casterbridge barracks,said William Smallbury.

Very well; if she doesn't return tomorrow, mind you go
there and try to discover which man it is, and see him.
feel more responsible than I should if she had had any
friends or relations alive. I do hope she has come to no
harm through a man of that kind.... And then there's this
disgraceful affair of the bailiff -- but I can't speak of
him now.

Bathsheba had so many reasons for uneasiness that it seemed
she did not think it worth while to dwell upon any
particular one. "Do as I told youthen she said in
conclusion, closing the casement.

Ayaymistress; we will they replied, and moved away.

That night at Coggan's, Gabriel Oak, beneath the screen of
closed eyelids, was busy with fancies, and full of movement,
like a river flowing rapidly under its ice. Night had
always been the time at which he saw Bathsheba most vividly,
and through the slow hours of shadow he tenderly regarded
her image now. It is rarely that the pleasures of the
imagination will compensate for the pain of sleeplessness,
but they possibly did with Oak to-night, for the delight of
merely seeing her effaced for the time his perception of the
great difference between seeing and possessing.

He also thought of plans for fetching his few utensils and
books from Norcombe. THE YOUNG MAN'S BEST COMPANION, THE
FARRIER'S SURE GUIDE, THE VETERINARY SURGEON, PARADISE LOST,
THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS, ROBINSON CRUSOE, ASH'S DICTIONARY,
the Walkingame's ARITHMETIC, constituted his library; and
though a limited series, it was one from which he had
acquired more sound information by diligent perusal than
many a man of opportunities has done from a furlong of laden
shelves.

CHAPTER IX


THE HOMESTEAD -- A VISITOR -- HALF-CONFIDENCES

BY daylight, the Bower of Oak's new-found mistress,
Bathsheba Everdene, presented itself as a hoary building, of
the early stage of Classic Renaissance as regards its
architecture, and of a proportion which told at a glance
that, as is so frequently the case, it had once been the
memorial hall upon a small estate around it, now altogether
effaced as a distinct property, and merged in the vast tract
of a non-resident landlord, which comprised several such
modest demesnes.

Fluted pilasters, worked from the solid stone, decorated its
front, and above the roof the chimneys were panelled or
columnar, some coped gables with finials and like features
still retaining traces of their Gothic extraction. Soft
brown mosses, like faded velveteen, formed cushions upon the
stone tiling, and tufts of the houseleek or sengreen
sprouted from the eaves of the low surrounding buildings. A
gravel walk leading from the door to the road in front was
encrusted at the sides with more moss -- here it was a
silver-green variety, the nut-brown of the gravel being
visible to the width of only a foot or two in the centre.
This circumstance, and the generally sleepy air of the whole
prospect here, together with the animated and contrasting
state of the reverse facade, suggested to the imagination
that on the adaptation of the building for farming purposes
the vital principle of the house had turned round inside its
body to face the other way. Reversals of this kind, strange
deformities, tremendous paralyses, are often seen to be
inflicted by trade upon edifices -- either individual or in
the aggregate as streets and towns -- which were originally
planned for pleasure alone.

Lively voices were heard this morning in the upper rooms,
the main staircase to which was of hard oak, the balusters,
heavy as bed-posts, being turned and moulded in the quaint
fashion of their century, the handrail as stout as a
parapet-top, and the stairs themselves continually twisting
round like a person trying to look over his shoulder. Going
up, the floors above were found to have a very irregular
surface, rising to ridges, sinking into valleys; and being
just then uncarpeted, the face of the boards was seen to be
eaten into innumerable vermiculations. Every window replied
by a clang to the opening and shutting of every door, a
tremble followed every bustling movement, and a creak
accompanied a walker about the house, like a spirit,
wherever he went.

In the room from which the conversation proceeded Bathsheba
and her servant-companion, Liddy Smallbury were to be
discovered sitting upon the floor, and sorting a
complication of papers, books, bottles, and rubbish spread
out thereon -- remnants from the household stores of the
late occupier. Liddy, the maltster's great-granddaughter,
was about Bathsheba's equal in age, and her face was a
prominent advertisement of the light-hearted English country
girl. The beauty her features might have lacked in form was
amply made up for by perfection of hue, which at this
winter-time was the softened ruddiness on a surface of high
rotundity that we meet with in a Terburg or a Gerard Douw;


and, like the presentations of those great colourists, it
was a face which kept well back from the boundary between
comeliness and the ideal. Though elastic in nature she was
less daring than Bathsheba, and occasionally showed some
earnestness, which consisted half of genuine feeling, and
half of mannerliness superadded by way of duty.

Through a partly-opened door the noise of a scrubbing-brush
led up to the charwoman, Maryann Money, a person who for a
face had a circular disc, furrowed less by age than by long
gazes of perplexity at distant objects. To think of her was
to get good-humoured; to speak of her was to raise the image
of a dried Normandy pippin.

Stop your scrubbing a moment said Bathsheba through the
door to her. I hear something."

Maryann suspended the brush.

The tramp of a horse was apparentapproaching the front of
the building. The paces slackenedturned in at the wicket
andwhat was most unusualcame up the mossy path close to
the door. The door was tapped with the end of a crop or
stick.

What impertinence!said Liddyin a low voice. "To ride
up the footpath like that! Why didn't he stop at the gate?
Lord! 'Tis a gentleman! I see the top of his hat."

Be quiet!said Bathsheba.

The further expression of Liddy's concern was continued by
aspect instead of narrative.

Why doesn't Mrs. Coggan go to the door?Bath-sheba
continued.

Rat-tat-tat-tat resounded more decisively from Bath-sheba's
oak.

Maryann, you go!said shefluttering under the onset of
a crowd of romantic possibilities.

Oh ma'am -- see, here's a mess!

The argument was unanswerable after a glance at Maryann.

Liddy -- you must,said Bathsheba.

Liddy held up her hands and armscoated with dust from the
rubbish they were sortingand looked imploringly at her
mistress.

There -- Mrs. Coggan is going!said Bathshebaexhaling
her relief in the form of a long breath which had lain in
her bosom a minute or more.

The door openedand a deep voice said -


Is Miss Everdene at home?

I'll see, sir,said Mrs. Cogganand in a minute appeared
in the room.


Dear, what a thirtover place this world is!continued Mrs.
Coggan (a wholesome-looking lady who had a voice for each
class of remark according to the emotion involved; who could
toss a pancake or twirl a mop with the accuracy of pure
mathematicsand who at this moment showed hands shaggy with
fragments of dough and arms encrusted with flour). "I am
never up to my elbowsMissin making a pudding but one of
two things do happen -- either my nose must needs begin
ticklingand I can't live without scratching itor
somebody knocks at the door. Here's Mr. Boldwood wanting to
see youMiss Everdne."

A woman's dress being a part of her countenanceand any
disorder in the one being of the same nature with a
malformation or wound in the otherBathsheba said at once -


I can't see him in this state. Whatever shall I do?

Not-at-homes were hardly naturalized in Weatherbury
farmhousesso Liddy suggested -- "Say you're a fright with
dustand can't come down."

Yes -- that sounds very well,said Mrs. Coggan
critically.

Say I can't see him -- that will do.

Mrs. Coggan went downstairsand returned the answer as
requestedaddinghoweveron her own responsibilityMiss
is dusting bottles, sir, and is quite a object -- that's why
'tis.

Oh, very well,said the deep voice indifferently. "All I
wanted to ask wasif anything had been heard of Fanny
Robin?"

Nothing, sir -- but we may know to-night. William
Smallbury is gone to Casterbridge, where her young man
lives, as is supposed, and the other men be inquiring about
everywhere.

The horse's tramp then recommenced and retreatedand the
door closed.

Who is Mr. Boldwood?said Bathsheba.

A gentleman-farmer at Little Weatherbury.

Married?

No, miss.

How old is he?

Forty, I should say -- very handsome -- rather sternlooking
-- and rich.

What a bother this dusting is! I am always in some
unfortunate plight or other,Bathsheba saidcomplainingly.
Why should he inquire about Fanny?

Oh, because, as she had no friends in her childhood, he
took her and put her to school, and got her her place here


under your uncle. He's a very kind man that way, but Lord -there!


What?

Never was such a hopeless man for a woman! He's been
courted by sixes and sevens -- all the girls, gentle and
simple, for miles round, have tried him. Jane Perkins
worked at him for two months like a slave, and the two Miss
Taylors spent a year upon him, and he cost Farmer Ives's
daughter nights of tears and twenty pounds' worth of new
clothes; but Lord -- the money might as well have been
thrown out of the window.

A little boy came up at this moment and looked in upon them.
This child was one of the Cogganswhowith the Smallburys
were as common among the families of this district as the
Avons and Derwents among our rivers. He always had a
loosened tooth or a cut finger to show to particular
friendswhich he did with an air of being thereby elevated
above the common herd of afflictionless humanity -- to which
exhibition people were expected to say "Poor child!" with a
dash of congratulation as well as pity.

I've got a pen-nee!said Master Coggan in a scanning
measure.

Well -- who gave it you, Teddy?said Liddy.

Mis-terr Bold-wood! He gave it to me for opening the gate.

What did he say?

He said, 'Where are you going, my little man?' and I said,
'To Miss Everdene's please,' and he said, 'She is a staid
woman, isn't she, my little man?' and I said, 'Yes.'

You naughty child! What did you say that for?

'Cause he gave me the penny!

What a pucker everything is in!said Bathsheba
discontentedly when the child had gone. "Get awayMaryann
or go on with your scrubbingor do something! You ought to
be married by this timeand not here troubling me!"

Ay, mistress -- so I did. But what between the poor men I
won't have, and the rich men who won't have me, I stand as a
pelicon in the wilderness!

Did anybody ever want to marry you miss?Liddy ventured to
ask when they were again alone. "Lots of 'emI daresay?"

Bathsheba pausedas if about to refuse a replybut the
temptation to say yessince it was really in her power was
irresistible by aspiring virginityin spite of her spleen
at having been published as old.

A man wanted to once,she saidin a highly experienced
tone and the image of Gabriel Oakas the farmerrose
before her.

How nice it must seem!said Liddywith the fixed features
of mental realization. "And you wouldn't have him?"


He wasn't quite good enough for me.

How sweet to be able to disdain, when most of us are glad
to say, 'Thank you!' I seem I hear it. 'No, sir -- I'm your
better.' or 'Kiss my foot, sir; my face is for mouths of
consequence.' And did you love him, miss?

Oh, no. But I rather liked him.

Do you now?

Of course not -- what footsteps are those I hear?

Liddy looked from a back window into the courtyard behind
which was now getting low-toned and dim with the earliest
films of night. A crooked file of men was approaching the
back door. The whole string of trailing individuals
advanced in the completest balance of intentionlike the
remarkable creatures known as Chain Salpaewhich
distinctly organized in other respectshave one will common
to a whole family. Some wereas usualin snow-white
smock-frocks of Russia duckand some in whitey-brown ones
of drabbet -- marked on the wristsbreastsbacksand
sleeves with honeycomb-work. Two or three women in pattens
brought up the rear.

The Philistines be upon us,said Liddymaking her nose
white against the glass.

Oh, very well. Maryann, go down and keep them in the
kitchen till I am dressed, and then show them in to me in
the hall.

CHAPTER X

MISTRESS AND MEN

HALF-AN-HOUR later Bathshebain finished dressand
followed by Liddyentered the upper end of the old hall to
find that her men had all deposited themselves on a long
form and a settle at the lower extremity. She sat down at a
table and opened the time-bookpen in her handwith a
canvas money-bag beside her. From this she poured a small
heap of coin. Liddy chose a position at her elbow and began
to sewsometimes pausing and looking roundor with the air
of a privileged persontaking up one of the half-sovereigns
lying before her and surveying it merely as a work of art
while strictly preventing her countenance from expressing
any wish to possess it as money.

Now before I begin, men,said BathshebaI have two
matters to speak of. The first is that the bailiff is
dismissed for thieving, and that I have formed a resolution
to have no bailiff at all, but to manage everything with my
own head and hands.

The men breathed an audible breath of amazement.

The next matter is, have you heard anything of Fanny?


Nothing, ma'am.

Have you done anything?

I met Farmer Boldwood,said Jacob Smallburyand I went
with him and two of his men, and dragged Newmill Pond, but
we found nothing.

And the new shepherd have been to Buck's Head, by Yalbury,
thinking she had gone there, but nobody had seed her,said
Laban Tall.

Hasn't William Smallbury been to Casterbridge?

Yes, ma'am, but he's not yet come home. He promised to be
back by six.

It wants a quarter to six at present,said Bathsheba
looking at her watch. "I daresay he'll be in directly.
Wellnow then" -- she looked into the book -- "Joseph
Poorgrassare you there?"

Yes, sir -- ma'am I mane,said the person addressed. "I
be the personal name of Poorgrass."

And what are you?

Nothing in my own eye. In the eye of other people -- well,
I don't say it; though public thought will out.

What do you do on the farm?

I do do carting things all the year, and in seed time I
shoots the rooks and sparrows, and helps at pig-killing,
sir.

How much to you?

Please nine and ninepence and a good halfpenny where 'twas
a bad one, sir -- ma'am I mane.

Quite correct. Now here are ten shillings in addition as a
small present, as I am a new comer.

Bathsheba blushed slightly at the sense of being generous in
publicand Henery Fraywho had drawn up towards her chair
lifted his eyebrows and fingers to express amazement on a
small scale.

How much do I owe you -- that man in the corner -- what's
your name?continued Bathsheba.

Matthew Moon, ma'am,said a singular framework of clothes
with nothing of any consequence inside themwhich advanced
with the toes in no definite direction forwardsbut turned
in or out as they chanced to swing.

Matthew Mark, did you say? -- speak out -- I shall not hurt
you,inquired the young farmerkindly.

Matthew Moon, mem,said Henery Fraycorrectinglyfrom
behind her chairto which point he had edged himself.

Matthew Moon,murmured Bathshebaturning her bright eyes


to the book. "Ten and twopence halfpenny is the sum put
down to youI see?"

Yes, mis'ess,said Matthewas the rustle of wind among
dead leaves.

Here it is, and ten shillings. Now the next -- Andrew
Randle, you are a new man, I hear. How come you to leave
your last farm?

P-p-p-p-p-pl-pl-pl-pl-l-l-l-l-ease, ma'am, p-p-p-p-pl-plpl-
pl-please, ma'am-please'm-please'm ----

'A's a stammering man, mem,said Henery Fray in an
undertoneand they turned him away because the only time
he ever did speak plain he said his soul was his own, and
other iniquities, to the squire. 'A can cuss, mem, as well
as you or I, but 'a can't speak a common speech to save his
life.

Andrew Randle, here's yours -- finish thanking me in a day
or two. Temperance Miller -- oh, here's another, Soberness
-- both women I suppose?

Yes'm. Here we be, 'a b'lieve,was echoed in shrill
unison.

What have you been doing?

Tending thrashing-machine and wimbling haybonds, and saying
'Hoosh!' to the cocks and hens when they go upon your seeds
and planting Early Flourballs and Thompson's Wonderfuls with
a dibble.

Yes -- I see. Are they satisfactory women?she inquired
softly of Henery Fray.

Oh mem -- don't ask me! Yielding women -- as scarlet a pair
as ever was!groaned Henery under his breath.

Sit down.

Whomem?"

Sit down,

Joseph Poorgrassin the background twitchedand his lips
became dry with fear of some terrible consequencesas he
saw Bathsheba summarily speakingand Henery slinking off to
a corner.

Now the next. Laban Tall, you'll stay on working for me?

For you or anybody that pays me well, ma'am,replied the
young married man.

True -- the man must live!said a woman in the back
quarterwho had just entered with clicking pattens.

What woman is that?Bathsheba asked.

I be his lawful wife!continued the voice with greater
prominence of manner and tone. This lady called herself
five-and-twentylooked thirtypassed as thirty-fiveand


was forty. She was a woman who neverlike some newly
marriedshowed conjugal tenderness in publicperhaps
because she had none to show.

Oh, you are,said Bathsheba. "WellLabanwill you stay
on?"

Yes, he'll stay, ma'am!said again the shrill tongue of
Laban's lawful wife.

Well, he can speak for himself, I suppose.

Oh Lord, not he, ma'am! A simple tool. Well enough, but a
poor gawkhammer mortal,the wife replied

Heh-heh-heh!laughed the married man with a hideous effort
of appreciationfor he was as irrepressibly good-humoured
under ghastly snubs as a parliamentary candidate on the
hustings.

The names remaining were called in the same manner.

Now I think I have done with you,said Bathshebaclosing
the book and shaking back a stray twine of hair. "Has
William Smallbury returned?"

No, ma'am.

The new shepherd will want a man under him,suggested
Henery Fraytrying to make himself official again by a
sideway approach towards her chair.

Oh -- he will. Who can he have?

Young Cain Ball is a very good lad,Henery saidand
Shepherd Oak don't mind his youth?he addedturning with
an apologetic smile to the shepherdwho had just appeared
on the sceneand was now leaning against the doorpost with
his arms folded.

No, I don't mind that,said Gabriel.

How did Cain come by such a name?asked Bathsheba.

Oh you see, mem, his pore mother, not being a Scriptureread
woman, made a mistake at his christening, thinking
'twas Abel killed Cain, and called en Cain, but 'twas too
late, for the name could never be got rid of in the parish.
'Tis very unfortunate for the boy.

It is rather unfortunate.

Yes. However, we soften it down as much as we can, and
call him Cainy. Ah, pore widow-woman! she cried her heart
out about it almost. She was brought up by a very heathen
father and mother, who never sent her to church or school,
and it shows how the sins of the parents are visited upon
the children, mem.

Mr. Fray here drew up his features to the mild degree of
melancholy required when the persons involved in the given
misfortune do not belong to your own family.

Very well then, Cainey Ball to be under-shepherd. And you


quite understand your duties? -- you I mean, Gabriel Oak?

Quite well, I thank you, Miss Everdene,said Shepard Oak
from the doorpost. "If I don'tI'll inquire." Gabriel was
rather staggered by the remarkable coolness of her manner.
Certainly nobody without previous information would have
dreamt that Oak and the handsome woman before whom he stood
had ever been other than strangers. But perhaps her air was
the inevitable result of the social rise which had advanced
her from a cottage to a large house and fields. The case is
not unexampled in high places. Whenin the writings of the
later poetsJove and his family are found to have moved
from their cramped quarters on the peak of Olympus into the
wide sky above ittheir words show a proportionate increase
of arrogance and reserve.

Footsteps were heard in the passagecombining in their
character the qualities both of weight and measurerather
at the expense of velocity.

(All.) "Here's Billy Smallbury come from Casterbridge."

And what's the news?said Bathshebaas Williamafter
marching to the middle of the halltook a handkerchief from
his hat and wiped his forehead from its centre to its
remoter boundaries.

I should have been sooner, miss,he saidif it hadn't
been for the weather.He then stamped with each foot
severelyand on looking down his boots were perceived to be
clogged with snow.

Come at last, is it?said Henery.

Well, what about Fanny?said Bathsheba.

Well, ma'am, in round numbers, she's run away with the
soldiers,said William.

No; not a steady girl like Fanny!

I'll tell ye all particulars. When I got to Casterbridge
Barracks, they said, 'The Eleventh Dragoon-Guards be gone
away, and new troops have come.' The Eleventh left last week
for Melchester and onwards. The Route came from Government
like a thief in the night, as is his nature to, and afore
the Eleventh knew it almost, they were on the march. They
passed near here.

Gabriel had listened with interest. "I saw them go he
said.

Yes continued William, they pranced down the street
playing 'The Girl I Left Behind Me' so 'tis saidin
glorious notes of triumph. Every looker-on's inside shook
with the blows of the great drum to his deepest vitalsand
there was not a dry eye throughout the town among the
public-house people and the nameless women!"

But they're not gone to any war?

No, ma'am; but they be gone to take the places of them who
may, which is very close connected. And so I said to
myself, Fanny's young man was one of the regiment, and she's


gone after him. There, ma'am, that's it in black and
white.

Did you find out his name?

No; nobody knew it. I believe he was higher in rank than a
private.

Gabriel remained musing and said nothingfor he was in
doubt.

Well, we are not likely to know more to-night, at any
rate,said Bathsheba. "But one of you had better run
across to Farmer Boldwood's and tell him that much."

She then rose; but before retiringaddressed a few words to
them with a pretty dignityto which her mourning dress
added a soberness that was hardly to be found in the words
themselves.

Now mind, you have a mistress instead of a master. I don't
yet know my powers or my talents in farming; but I shall do
my best, and if you serve me well, so shall I serve you.
Don't any unfair ones among you (if there are any such, but
I hope not) suppose that because I'm a woman I don't
understand the difference between bad goings-on and good.

(All.) "No'm!"

(Liddy.) "Excellent well said."

I shall be up before you are awake; I shall be afield
before you are up; and I shall have breakfasted before you
are afield. In short, I shall astonish you all.

(All.) Yes'm!"

And so good-night.

(All.) "Good-nightma'am."

Then this small thesmothete stepped from the tableand
surged out of the hallher black silk dress licking up a
few straws and dragging them along with a scratching noise
upon the floor. Liddyelevating her feelings to the
occasion from a sense of grandeurfloated off behind
Bathsheba with a milder dignity not entirely free from
travestyand the door was closed.

CHAPTER XI

OUTSIDE THE BARRACKS -- SNOW -- A MEETING

FOR dreariness nothing could surpass a prospect in the
outskirts of a certain town and military stationmany miles
north of Weatherburyat a later hour on this same snowy
evening -- if that may be called a prospect of which the
chief constituent was darkness.

It was a night when sorrow may come to the brightest without
causing any great sense of incongruity: whenwith


impressible personslove becomes solicitousnesshope sinks
to misgivingand faith to hope: when the exercise of
memory does not stir feelings of regret at opportunities for
ambition that have been passed byand anticipation does not
prompt to enterprise.

The scene was a public pathbordered on the left hand by a
riverbehind which rose a high wall. On the right was a
tract of landpartly meadow and partly moorreachingat
its remote vergeto a wide undulating uplan.

The changes of the seasons are less obtrusive on spots of
this kind than amid woodland scenery. Stillto a close
observerthey are just as perceptible; the difference is
that their media of manifestation are less trite and
familiar than such well-known ones as the bursting of the
buds or the fall of the leaf. Many are not so stealthy and
gradual as we may be apt to imagine in considering the
general torpidity of a moor or waste. Winterin coming to
the country hereaboutadvanced in well-marked stages
wherein might have been successively observed the retreat of
the snakesthe transformation of the fernsthe filling of
the poolsa rising of fogsthe embrowning by frostthe
collapse of the fungiand an obliteration by snow.

This climax of the series had been reached to-night on the
aforesaid moorand for the first time in the season its
irregularities were forms without features; suggestive of
anythingproclaiming nothingand without more character
than that of being the limit of something else -- the lowest
layer of a firmament of snow. From this chaotic skyful of
crowding flakes the mead and moor momentarily received
additional clothingonly to appear momentarily more naked
thereby. The vast arch of cloud above was strangely low
and formed as it were the roof of a large dark cavern
gradually sinking in upon its floor; for the instinctive
thought was that the snow lining the heavens and that
encrusting the earth would soon unite into one mass without
any intervening stratum of air at all.

We turn our attention to the left-hand characteristics;
which were flatness in respect of the riververticality in
respect of the wall behind itand darkness as to both.
These features made up the mass. If anything could be
darker than the skyit was the walland if any thing could
be gloomier than the wall it was the river beneath. The
indistinct summit of the facade was notched and pronged by
chimneys here and thereand upon its face were faintly
signified the oblong shapes of windowsthough only in the
upper part. Belowdown to the water's edgethe flat was
unbroken by hole or projection.

An indescribable succession of dull blowsperplexing in
their regularitysent their sound with difficulty through
the fluffy atmosphere. It was a neighbouring clock striking
ten. The bell was in the open airand being overlaid with
several inches of muffling snowhad lost its voice for the
time.

About this hour the snow abated: ten flakes fell where
twenty had fallenthen one had the room of ten. Not long
after a form moved by the brink of the river.

By its outline upon the colourless backgrounda close


observer might have seen that it was small. This was all
that was positively discoverablethough it seemed human.

The shape went slowly alongbut without much exertionfor
the snowthough suddenwas not as yet more than two inches
deep. At this time some words were spoken aloud: -


One. Two. Three. Four. Five.

Between each utterance the little shape advanced about half
a dozen yards. It was evident now that the windows high in
the wall were being counted. The word "Five" represented
the fifth window from the end of the wall.

Here the spot stoppedand dwindled smaller. The figure was
stooping. Then a morsel of snow flew across the river
towards the fifth window. It smacked against the wall at a
point several yards from its mark. The throw was the idea
of a man conjoined with the execution of a woman. No man
who had ever seen birdrabbitor squirrel in his
childhoodcould possibly have thrown with such utter
imbecility as was shown here.

Another attemptand another; till by degrees the wall must
have become pimpled with the adhering lumps of snow At last
one fragment struck the fifth window.

The river would have been seen by day to be of that deep
smooth sort which races middle and sides with the same
gliding precisionany irregularities of speed being
immediately corrected by a small whirlpool. Nothing was
heard in reply to the signal but the gurgle and cluck of one
of these invisible wheels -- together with a few small
sounds which a sad man would have called moansand a happy
man laughter -- caused by the flapping of the waters against
trifling objects in other parts of the stream.

The window was struck again in the same manner.

Then a noise was heardapparently produced by the opening
of the window. This was followed by a voice from the same
quarter.

Who's there?

The tones were masculineand not those of surprise. The
high wall being that of a barrackand marriage being looked
upon with disfavour in the armyassignations and
communications had probably been made across the river
before tonight.

Is it Sergeant Troy?said the blurred spot in the snow
tremulously.

This person was so much like a mere shade upon the earth
and the other speaker so much a part of the buildingthat
one would have said the wall was holding a conversation with
the snow.

Yes,came suspiciously from the shadow. "What girl are
you?"

Oh, Frank -- don't you know me?said the spot. "Your
wifeFanny Robin."


Fanny!said the wallin utter astonishment.

Yes,said the girlwith a half-suppressed gasp of
emotion.

There was something in the woman's tone which is not that of
the wifeand there was a manner in the man which is rarely
a husband's. The dialogue went on:

How did you come here?

I asked which was your window. Forgive me!

I did not expect you to-night. Indeed, I did not think you
would come at all. It was a wonder you found me here. I am
orderly to-morrow.

You said I was to come.

Well -- I said that you might.
Yes, I mean that I might. You are glad to see me, Frank?


Oh yes -- of course.
Can you -- come to me!


My dear Fanno! The bugle has soundedthe barrack gates
are closedand I have no leave. We are all of us as good
as in the county gaol till to-morrow morning."

Then I shan't see you till then!The words were in a
faltering tone of disappointment.

How did you get here from Weatherbury?

I walked -- some part of the way -- the rest by the
carriers.

I am surprised.
Yes -- so am I. And Frank, when will it be?


What?
That you promised.


I don't quite recollect.


O you do! Don't speak like that. It weighs me to the
earth. It makes me say what ought to be said first by you.

Never mind -- say it.
O, must I? -- it is, when shall we be married, Frank?


Oh, I see. Well -- you have to get proper clothes.
I have money. Will it be by banns or license?


Banns, I should think.
And we live in two parishes.



Do we? What then?

My lodgings are in St. Mary's, and this is not. So they
will have to be published in both.

Is that the law?

Yes. O Frank -- you think me forward, I am afraid! Don't,
dear Frank -- will you -- for I love you so. And you said
lots of times you would marry me, and and -- I -- I -- I ---


Don't cry, now! It is foolish. If I said so, of course I
will.

And shall I put up the banns in my parish, and will you in
yours?

Yes

To-morrow?

Not tomorrow. We'll settle in a few days.

You have the permission of the officers?

No, not yet.

O -- how is it? You said you almost had before you left
Casterbridge.

The fact is, I forgot to ask. Your coming like this is so
sudden and unexpected.

Yes -- yes -- it is. It was wrong of me to worry you.
I'll go away now. Will you come and see me to-morrow, at
Mrs. Twills's, in North Street? I don't like to come to the
Barracks. There are bad women about, and they think me
one.

Quite, so. I'll come to you, my dear. Good-night.

Good-night, Frank -- good-night!

And the noise was again heard of a window closing. The
little spot moved away. When she passed the corner a
subdued exclamation was heard inside the wall.

Ho -- ho -- Sergeant -- ho -- ho!An expostulation
followedbut it was indistinct; and it became lost amid a
low peal of laughterwhich was hardly distinguishable from
the gurgle of the tiny whirlpools outside.

CHAPTER XII

FARMERS -- A RULE -- IN EXCEPTION

THE first public evidence of Bathsheba's decision to be a
farmer in her own person and by proxy no more was her
appearance the following market-day in the cornmarket at


Casterbridge.

The low though extensive hallsupported by beams and
pillarsand latterly dignified by the name of Corn
Exchangewas thronged with hot men who talked among each
other in twos and threesthe speaker of the minute looking
sideways into his auditor's face and concentrating his
argument by a contraction of one eyelid during delivery.
The greater number carried in their hands ground-ash
saplingsusing them partly as walking-sticks and partly for
poking up pigssheepneighbours with their backs turned
and restful things in generalwhich seemed to require such
treatment in the course of their peregrinations. During
conversations each subjected his sapling to great varieties
of usage -- bending it round his backforming an arch of it
between his two handsoverweighting it on the ground till
it reached nearly a semicircle; or perhaps it was hastily
tucked under the arm whilst the sample-bag was pulled forth
and a handful of corn poured into the palmwhichafter
criticismwas flung upon the flooran issue of events
perfectly well known to half-a-dozen acute town-bred fowls
which had as usual crept into the building unobservedand
waited the fulfilment of their anticipations with a highstretched
neck and oblique eye.

Among these heavy yeomen a feminine figure glidedthe
single one of her sex that the room contained. She was
prettily and even daintily dressed. She moved between them
as a chaise between cartswas heard after them as a romance
after sermonswas felt among them like a breeze among
furnaces. It had required a little determination -- far
more than she had at first imagined -- to take up a position
herefor at her first entry the lumbering dialogues had
ceasednearly every face had been turned towards herand
those that were already turned rigidly fixed there.

Two or three only of the farmers were personally known to
Bathshebaand to these she had made her way. But if she
was to be the practical woman she had intended to show
herselfbusiness must be carried onintroductions or none
and she ultimately acquired confidence enough to speak and
reply boldly to men merely known to her by hearsay.
Bathsheba too had her sample-bagsand by degrees adopted
the professional pour into the hand -- holding up the grains
in her narrow palm for inspectionin perfect Casterbridge
manner.

Something in the exact arch of her upper unbroken row of
teethand in the keenly pointed corners of her red mouth
whenwith parted lipsshe somewhat defiantly turned up her
face to argue a point with a tall mansuggested that there
was potentiality enough in that lithe slip of humanity for
alarming exploits of sexand daring enough to carry them
out. But her eyes had a softness -- invariably a softness -which
had they not been darkwould have seemed
mistiness; as they wereit lowered an expression that might
have been piercing to simple clearness.

Strange to say of a woman in full bloom and vigorshe
always allowed her interlocutors to finish their statements
before rejoining with hers. In arguing on pricesshe held
to her own firmlyas was natural in a dealerand reduced
theirs persistentlyas was inevitable in a woman. But
there was an elasticity in her firmness which removed it


from obstinacyas there was a naivete in her cheapening
which saved it from meanness.

Those of the farmers with whom she had no dealings by far
the greater part) were continually asking each otherWho
is she?The reply would be -


Farmer Everdene's niece; took on Weatherbury Upper Farm;
turned away the baily, and swears she'll do everything
herself.

The other man would then shake his head.

Yes, 'tis a pity she's so headstrong,the first would say.
But we ought to be proud of her here -- she lightens up the
old place. 'Tis such a shapely maid, however, that she'll
soon get picked up.

It would be ungallant to suggest that the novelty of her
engagement in such an occupation had almost as much to do
with the magnetism as had the beauty of her face and
movements. Howeverthe interest was generaland this
Saturday's DEBUT in the forumwhatever it may have been to
Bathsheba as the buying and selling farmerwas
unquestionably a triumph to her as the maiden. Indeedthe
sensation was so pronounced that her instinct on two or
three occasions was merely to walk as a queen among these
gods of the fallowlike a little sister of a little Jove
and to neglect closing prices altogether.

The numerous evidences of her power to attract were only
thrown into greater relief by a marked exception. Women
seem to have eyes in their ribbons for such matters as
these. Bathshebawithout looking within a right angle of
himwas conscious of a black sheep among the flock.

It perplexed her first. If there had been a respectable
minority on either sidethe case would have been most
natural. If nobody had regarded hershe would have -taken
the matter indifferently -- such cases had occurred.
If everybodythis man includedshe would have taken it as
a matter of course -- people had done so before. But the
smallness of the exception made the mystery.

She soon knew thus much of the recusant's appearance. He
was a gentlemanly manwith full and distinctly outlined
Roman featuresthe prominences of which glowed in the sun
with a bronze-like richness of tone. He was erect in
attitudeand quiet in demeanour. One characteristic preeminently
marked him -- dignity.

Apparently he had some time ago reached that entrance to
middle age at which a man's aspect naturally ceases to alter
for the term of a dozen years or so; andartificiallya
woman's does likewise. Thirty-five and fifty were his
limits of variation -- he might have been eitheror
anywhere between the two.

It may be said that married men of forty are usually ready
and generous enough to fling passing glances at any specimen
of moderate beauty they may discern by the way. Probably
as with persons playing whist for lovethe consciousness of
a certain immunity under any circumstances from that worst
possible ultimatethe having to paymakes them unduly


speculative. Bathsheba was convinced that this unmoved
person was not a married man.

When marketing was overshe rushed off to Liddywho was
waiting for her -- beside the yellowing in which they had
driven to town. The horse was put inand on they trotted
Bathsheba's sugarteaand drapery parcels being packed
behindand expressing in some indescribable mannerby
their colourshapeand general lineamentsthat they were
that young lady-farmer's propertyand the grocer's and
drapers no more.

I've been through it, Liddy, and it is over. I shan't mind
it again, for they will all have grown accustomed to seeing
me there; but this morning it was as bad as being married -eyes
everywhere!

I knowed it would be,Liddy said. "Men be such a terrible
class of society to look at a body."

But there was one man who had more sense than to waste his
time upon me.The information was put in this form that
Liddy might not for a moment suppose her mistress was at all
piqued. "A very good-looking man she continued, upright;
about fortyI should think. Do you know at all who he
could be?"

Liddy couldn't think.

Can't you guess at all?said Bathsheba with some
disappointment.

I haven't a notion; besides, 'tis no difference, since he
took less notice of you than any of the rest. Now, if he'd
taken more, it would have mattered a great deal.

Bathsheba was suffering from the reverse feeling just then
and they bowled along in silence. A low carriagebowling
along still more rapidly behind a horse of unimpeachable
breedovertook and passed them.

Why, there he is!she said.

Liddy looked. "That! That's Farmer Boldwood -- of course
'tis -- the man you couldn't see the other day when he
called."

Oh, Farmer Boldwood,murmured Bathshebaand looked at him
as he outstripped them. The farmer had never turned his
head oncebut with eyes fixed on the most advanced point
along the roadpassed as unconsciously and abstractedly as
if Bathsheba and her charms were thin air.

He's an interesting man -- don't you think so?she
remarked.

O yes, very. Everybody owns it,replied Liddy.

I wonder why he is so wrapt up and indifferent, and
seemingly so far away from all he sees around him.

It is said -- but not known for certain -- that he met with
some bitter disappointment when he was a young man and
merry. A woman jilted him, they say.


People always say that -- and we know very well women
scarcely ever jilt men; 'tis the men who jilt us. I expect
it is simply his nature to be so reserved.

Simply his nature -- I expect so, miss -- nothing else in
the world.

Still, 'tis more romantic to think he has been served
cruelly, poor thing'! Perhaps, after all, he has!

Depend upon it he has. Oh yes, miss, he has! I feel he
must have.

However, we are very apt to think extremes of people. I -shouldn't
wonder after all if it wasn't a little of both -just
between the two -- rather cruelly used and rather
reserved.

Oh dear no, miss -- I can't think it between the two!

That's most likely.

Well, yes, so it is. I am convinced it is most likely.
You may -- take my word, miss, that that's what's the matter
with him.

CHAPTER XIII

SORTES SANCTORUM -- THE VALENTINE

IT was Sunday afternoon in the farmhouseon the thirteenth
of February. Dinner being overBathshebafor want of a
better companionhad asked Liddy to come and sit with her.
The mouldy pile was dreary in winter-time before the candles
were lighted and the shutters closed; the atmosphere of the
place seemed as old as the walls; every nook behind the
furniture had a temperature of its ownfor the fire was not
kindled in this part of the house early in the day; and
Bathsheba's new pianowhich was an old one in other annals
looked particularly sloping and out of level on the warped
floor before night threw a shade over its less prominent
angles and hid the unpleasantness. Liddylike a little
brookthough shallowwas always rippling; her presence had
not so much weight as to task thoughtand yet enough to
exercise it.

On the table lay an old quarto Biblebound in leather.
Liddy looking at it said-


Did you ever find out, miss, who you are going to marry by
means of the Bible and key?

Don't be so foolish, Liddy. As if such things could be.

Well, there's a good deal in it, all the same.

Nonsense, child.

And it makes your heart beat fearful. Some believe in it;
some don't; I do.


Very well, let's try it,said Bathshebabounding from her
seat with that total disregard of consistency which can be
indulged in towards a dependentand entering into the
spirit of divination at once. "Go and get the front door
key."

Liddy fetched it. "I wish it wasn't Sunday she said, on
returning.Perhaps 'tis wrong."

What's right week days is right Sundays,replied her
mistress in a tone which was a proof in itself.

The book was opened -- the leavesdrab with agebeing
quite worn away at much-read verses by the forefingers of
unpractised readers in former dayswhere they were moved
along under the line as an aid to the vision. The special
verse in the Book of Ruth was sought out by Bathshebaand
the sublime words met her eye. They slightly thrilled and
abashed her. It was Wisdom in the abstract facing Folly in
the concrete. Folly in the concrete blushedpersisted in
her intentionand placed the key on the book. A rusty
patch immediately upon the versecaused by previous
pressure of an iron substance thereontold that this was
not the first time the old volume had been used for the
purpose.

Now keep steady, and be silent,said Bathsheba.

The verse was repeated; the book turned round; Bathsheba
blushed guiltily.

Who did you try?said Liddy curiously.

I shall not tell you.

Did you notice Mr. Boldwood's doings in church this
morning, miss?Liddy continuedadumbrating by the remark
the track her thoughts had taken.

No, indeed,said Bathshebawith serene indifference.

His pew is exactly opposite yours, miss.

I know it.

And you did not see his goings on!

Certainly I did not, I tell you.

Liddy assumed a smaller physiognomyand shut her lips
decisively.

This move was unexpectedand proportionately disconcerting.
What did he do?Bathsheba said perforce.

Didn't turn his head to look at you once all the service.

Why should he?" again demanded her mistresswearing a
nettled look. "I didn't ask him to.

Oh no. But everybody else was noticing you; and it was odd
he didn't. There, 'tis like him. Rich and gentlemanly,
what does he care?


Bathsheba dropped into a silence intended to express that
she had opinions on the matter too abstruse for Liddy's
comprehensionrather than that she had nothing to say.

Dear me -- I had nearly forgotten the valentine I bought
yesterday,she exclaimed at length.

Valentine! who for, miss?said Liddy. "Farmer Boldwood?"

It was the single name among all possible wrong ones that
just at this moment seemed to Bathsheba more pertinent than
the right.

Well, no. It is only for little Teddy Coggan. I have
promised him something, and this will be a pretty surprise
for him. Liddy, you may as well bring me my desk and I'll
direct it at once.

Bathsheba took from her desk a gorgeously illuminated and
embossed design in post-octavowhich had been bought on the
previous market-day at the chief stationer's in
Casterbridge. In the centre was a small oval enclosure;
this was left blankthat the sender might insert tender
words more appropriate to the special occasion than any
generalities by a printer could possibly be.

Here's a place for writing,said Bathsheba. "What shall I
put?"

Something of this sort, I should think', returned Liddy
promptly: -


The rose is red
The violet blue
Carnation's sweet
And so are you."

Yes, that shall be it. It just suits itself to a chubbyfaced
child like him,said Bathsheba. She inserted the
words in a small though legible handwriting; enclosed the
sheet in an envelopeand dipped her pen for the direction.

What fun it would be to send it to the stupid old Boldwood,
and how he would wonder!said the irrepressible Liddy
lifting her eyebrowsand indulging in an awful mirth on the
verge of fear as she thought of the moral and social
magnitude of the man contemplated.

Bathsheba paused to regard the idea at full length.
Boldwood's had begun to be a troublesome image -- a species
of Daniel in her kingdom who persisted in kneeling eastward
when reason and common sense said that he might just as well
follow suit with the restand afford her the official
glance of admiration which cost nothing at all. She was far
from being seriously concerned about his nonconformity.
Stillit was faintly depressing that the most dignified and
valuable man in the parish should withhold his eyesand
that a girl like Liddy should talk about it. So Liddy's
idea was at first rather harassing than piquant.

No, I won't do that. He wouldn't see any humour in it.

He'd worry to death,said the persistent Liddy.


Really, I don't care particularly to send it to Teddy,
remarked her mistress. "He's rather a naughty child
sometimes."

Yes -- that he is.

Let's toss as men do,said Bathshebaidly. "Now then
headBoldwood; tailTeddy. Nowe won't toss money on a
Sunday that would be tempting the devil indeed."

Toss this hymn-book; there can't be no sinfulness in that,
miss.

Very well. Open, Boldwood -- shut, Teddy. No; it's more
likely to fall open. Open, Teddy -- shut, Boldwood.

The book went fluttering in the air and came down shut.

Bathshebaa small yawn upon her mouthtook the penand
with off-hand serenity directed the missive to Boldwood.

Now light a candle, Liddy. Which seal shall we use?
Here's a unicorn's head -- there's nothing in that. What's
this? -- two doves -- no. It ought to be something
extraordinary, ought it not, Liddy? Here's one with a motto
-- I remember it is some funny one, but I can't read it.
We'll try this, and if it doesn't do we'll have another.

A large red seal was duly affixed. Bathsheba looked closely
at the hot wax to discover the words.

Capital!she exclaimedthrowing down the letter
frolicsomely. "'Twould upset the solemnity of a parson and
clerke too."

Liddy looked at the words of the sealand read -


MARRY ME.

The same evening the letter was sentand was duly sorted in
Casterbridge post-office that nightto be returned to
Weatherbury again in the morning.

So very idly and unreflectingly was this deed done. Of love
as a spectacle Bathsheba had a fair knowledge; but of love
subjectively she knew nothing.

CHAPTER XIV

EFFECT OF THE LETTER -- SUNRISE

AT duskon the evening of St. Valentine's DayBold-wood
sat down to supper as usualby a beaming fire of aged logs.
Upon the mantel-shelf before him was a time-piece
surmounted by a spread eagleand upon the eagle's wings was
the letter Bathsheba had sent. Here the bachelor's gaze was
continually fastening itselftill the large red seal became
as a blot of blood on the retina of his eye; and as he ate
and drank he still read in fancy the words thereonalthough
they were too remote for his sight -



MARRY ME.

The pert injunction was like those crystal substances which
colourless themselvesassume the tone of objects about
them. Herein the quiet of Boldwood's parlourwhere
everything that was not grave was extraneousand where the
atmosphere was that of a Puritan Sunday lasting all the
weekthe letter and its dictum changed their tenor from the
thoughtlessness of their origin to a deep solemnityimbibed
from their accessories now.

Since the receipt of the missive in the morningBoldwood
had felt the symmetry of his existence to be slowly getting
distorted in the direction of an ideal passion. The
disturbance was as the first floating weed to Columbus -the
contemptibly little suggesting possibilities of the
infinitely great.

The letter must have had an origin and a motive. That the
latter was of the smallest magnitude compatible with its
existence at allBoldwoodof coursedid not know. And
such an explanation did not strike him as a possibility
even. It is foreign to a mystified condition of mind to
realize of the mystifier that the processes of approving a
course suggested by circumstanceand of striking out a
course from inner impulsewould look the same in the
result. The vast difference between starting a train of
eventsand directing into a particular groove a series
already startedis rarely apparent to the person confounded
by the issue.

When Boldwood went to bed he placed the valentine in the
corner of the looking-glass. He was conscious of its
presenceeven when his back was turned upon it. It was the
first time in Boldwood's life that such an event had
occurred. The same fascination that caused him to think it
an act which had a deliberate motive prevented him from
regarding it as an impertinence. He looked again at the
direction. The mysterious influences of night invested the
writing with the presence of the unknown writer. Somebody's
some WOMAN'S -- hand had travelled softly over the paper
bearing his name; her unrevealed eyes had watched every
curve as she formed it; her brain had seen him in
imagination the while. Why should she have imagined him?
Her mouth -- were the lips red or paleplump or creased? -had
curved itself to a certain expression as the pen went on
-- the corners had moved with all their natural
tremulousness: what had been the expression?

The vision of the woman writingas a supplement to the
words writtenhad no individuality. She was a misty shape
and well she might beconsidering that her original was at
that moment sound asleep and oblivious of all love and
letter-writing under the sky. Whenever Boldwood dozed she
took a formand comparatively ceased to be a vision: when
he awoke there was the letter justifying the dream.

The moon shone to-nightand its light was not of a
customary kind. His window admitted only a reflection of
its raysand the pale sheen had that reversed direction
which snow givescoming upward and lighting up his ceiling
in an unnatural waycasting shadows in strange placesand
putting lights where shadows had used to be.


The substance of the epistle had occupied him but little in
comparison with the fact of its arrival. He suddenly
wondered if anything more might be found in the envelope
than what he had withdrawn. He jumped out of bed in the
weird lighttook the letterpulled out the flimsy sheet
shook the envelope -- searched it. Nothing more was there.
Boldwood lookedas he had a hundred times the preceding
dayat the insistent red seal: "Marry me he said aloud.

The solemn and reserved yeoman again closed the letter, and
stuck it in the frame of the glass. In doing so he caught
sight of his reflected features, wan in expression, and
insubstantial in form. He saw how closely compressed was
his mouth, and that his eyes were wide-spread and vacant.
Feeling uneasy and dissatisfied with himself for this
nervous excitability, he returned to bed.

Then the dawn drew on. The full power of the clear heaven
was not equal to that of a cloudy sky at noon, when Boldwood
arose and dressed himself. He descended the stairs and went
out towards the gate of a field to the east, leaning over
which he paused and looked around.

It was one of the usual slow sunrises of this time of the
year, and the sky, pure violet in the zenith, was leaden to
the northward, and murky to the east, where, over the snowy
down or ewe-lease on Weatherbury Upper Farm, and apparently
resting upon the ridge, the only half of the sun yet visible
burnt rayless, like a red and flameless fire shining over a
white hearthstone. The whole effect resembled a sunset as
childhood resembles age.

In other directions, the fields and sky were so much of one
colour by the snow, that it was difficult in a hasty glance
to tell whereabouts the horizon occurred; and in general
there was here, too, that before-mentioned preternatural
inversion of light and shade which attends the prospect when
the garish brightness commonly in the sky is found on the
earth, and the shades of earth are in the sky. Over the
west hung the wasting moon, now dull and greenish-yellow,
like tarnished brass.

Boldwood was listlessly noting how the frost had hardened
and glazed the surface of the snow, till it shone in the red
eastern light with the polish of marble; how, in some
portions of the slope, withered grass-bents, encased in
icicles, bristled through the smooth wan coverlet in the
twisted and curved shapes of old Venetian glass; and how the
footprints of a few birds, which had hopped over the snow
whilst it lay in the state of a soft fleece, were now frozen
to a short permanency. A half-muffled noise of light wheels
interrupted him. Boldwood turned back into the road. It
was the mail-cart -- a crazy, two-wheeled vehicle, hardly
heavy enough to resist a puff of wind. The driver held out
a letter. Boldwood seized it and opened it, expecting
another anonymous one -- so greatly are people's ideas of
probability a mere sense that precedent will repeat itself.

I don't think it is for yousir said the man, when he
saw Boldwood's action. Though there is no name I think it
is for your shepherd."

Boldwood looked then at the address -



To the New Shepherd

Weatherbury Farm

Near Casterbridge.

Oh -- what a mistake! -- it is not mine. Nor is it for my
shepherd. It is for Miss Everdene's. You had better take
it on to him -- Gabriel Oak -- and say I opened it in
mistake."

At this momenton the ridgeup against the blazing skya
figure was visiblelike the black snuff in the midst of a
candle-flame. Then it moved and began to bustle about
vigorously from place to placecarrying square skeleton
masseswhich were riddled by the same rays. A small figure
on all fours followed behind. The tall form was that of
Gabriel Oak; the small one that of George; the articles in
course of transit were hurdles.

Wait,said Boldwood. "That's the man on the hill. I'll
take the letter to him myself."

To Boldwood it was now no longer merely a letter to I
another man. It was an opportunity. Exhibiting a face
pregnant with intentionhe entered the snowy field.

Gabrielat that minutedescended the hill towards the
right. The glow stretched down in this direction nowand
touched the distant roof of Warren's Malthouse -- whither
the shepherd was apparently bent: Boldwood followed at a
distance.

CHAPTER XV

A MORNING MEETING -- THE LETTER AGAIN

THE scarlet and orange light outside the malthouse did not
penetrate to its interiorwhich wasas usuallighted by a
rival glow of similar hueradiating from the hearth.

The maltsterafter having lain down in his clothes for a
few hourswas now sitting beside a three-legged table
breakfasting of bread and bacon. This was eaten on the
plateless systemwhich is performed by placing a slice of
bread upon the tablethe meat flat upon the breada
mustard plaster upon the meatand a pinch of salt upon the
wholethen cutting them vertically downwards with a large
pocket-knife till wood is reachedwhen the severed lamp is
impaled on the knifeelevatedand sent the proper way of
food.

The maltster's lack of teeth appeared not to sensibly
diminish his powers as a mill. He had been without them for
so many years that toothlessness was felt less to be a
defect than hard gums an acquisition. Indeedhe seemed to
approach the grave as a hyperbolic curve approaches a
straight line -- less directly as he got nearertill it was


doubtful if he would ever reach it at all.

In the ashpit was a heap of potatoes roastingand a boiling
pipkin of charred breadcalled "coffee." for the benefit of
whomsoever should callfor Warren's was a sort of
clubhouseused as an alternative to the inn.

I say, says I, we get a fine day, and then down comes a
snapper at night,was a remark now suddenly heard spreading
into the malthouse from the doorwhich had been opened the
previous moment. The form of Henery Fray advanced to the
firestamping the snow from his boots when about half-way
there. The speech and entry had not seemed to be at all an
abrupt beginning to the maltsterintroductory matter being
often omitted in this neighbourhoodboth from word and
deedand the maltster having the same latitude allowed him
did not hurry to reply. He picked up a fragment of cheese
by pecking upon it with his knifeas a butcher picks up
skewers.

Henery appeared in a drab kerseymere great-coatbuttoned
over his smock-frockthe white skirts of the latter being
visible to the distance of about a foot below the coattails
whichwhen you got used to the style of dress
looked natural enoughand even ornamental -- it certainly
was comfortable.

Matthew MoonJoseph Poorgrassand other carters and
waggoners followed at his heelswith great lanterns
dangling from their handswhich showed that they had just
come from the cart-horse stableswhere they had been busily
engaged since four o'clock that morning.

And how is she getting on without a baily?the maltster
inquired. Henery shook his headand smiled one of the
bitter smilesdragging all the flesh of his forehead into a
corrugated heap in the centre.

She'll rue it -- surely, surely!he said "Benjy Pennyways
were not a true man or an honest baily -- as big a betrayer
as Judas Iscariot himself. But to think she can carr' on
alone!" He allowed his head to swing laterally three or four
times in silence. "Never in all my creeping up -- never!"

This was recognized by all as the conclusion of some gloomy
speech which had been expressed in thought alone during the
shake of the head; Henery meanwhile retained several marks
of despair upon his faceto imply that they would be
required for use again directly he should go on speaking.

All will be ruined, and ourselves too, or there's no meat
in gentlemen's houses!said Mark Clark.

A headstrong maid, that's what she is -- and won't listen
to no advice at all. Pride and vanity have ruined many a
cobbler's dog. Dear, dear, when I think o' it, I sorrows
like a man in travel!

True, Henery, you do, I've heard ye,said Joseph Poorgrass
in a voice of thorough attestationand with a wire-drawn
smile of misery.

'Twould do a martel man no harm to have what's under her
bonnet,said Billy Smallburywho had just enteredbearing


his one tooth before him. "She can spaik real languageand
must have some sense somewhere. Do ye foller me?"

I do, I do; but no baily -- I deserved that place,wailed
Henerysignifying wasted genius by gazing blankly at
visions of a high destiny apparently visible to him on Billy
Smallbury's smock-frock. "There'twas to beI suppose.
Your lot is your lotand Scripture is nothing; for if you
do good you don't get rewarded according to your worksbut
be cheated in some mean way out of your recompense."

No, no; I don't agree with'ee there,said Mark Clark.
God's a perfect gentleman in that respect."

Good works good pay, so to speak it,attested Joseph
Poorgrass.

A short pause ensuedand as a sort of ENTR'ACTE Henery
turned and blew out the lanternswhich the increase of
daylight rendered no longer necessary even in the malthouse
with its one pane of glass.

I wonder what a farmer-woman can want with a harpsichord,
dulcimer, pianner, or whatever 'tis they d'call it?said
the maltster. "Liddy saith she've a new one."

Got a pianner?

Ay. Seems her old uncle's things were not good enough for
her. She've bought all but everything new. There's heavy
chairs for the stout, weak and wiry ones for the slender;
great watches, getting on to the size of clocks, to stand
upon the chimbley-piece.

Picturesfor the most part wonderful frames."

And long horse-hair settles for the drunk, with horse-hair
pillows at each end,said Mr. Clark. "Likewise lookingglasses
for the prettyand lying books for the wicked."

A firm loud tread was now heard stamping outside; the door
was opened about six inchesand somebody on the other side
exclaimed -


Neighbours, have ye got room for a few new-born lambs?

Aysureshepherd said the conclave.

The door was flung back till it kicked the wall and trembled
from top to bottom with the blow. Mr. Oak appeared in the
entry with a steaming face, hay-bands wound about his ankles
to keep out the snow, a leather strap round his waist
outside the smock-frock, and looking altogether an epitome
of the world's health and vigour. Four lambs hung in
various embarrassing attitudes over his shoulders, and the
dog George, whom Gabriel had contrived to fetch from
Norcombe, stalked solemnly behind.

WellShepherd Oakand how's lambing this yearif I mid
say it?" inquired Joseph Poorgrass.

Terrible trying,said Oak. "I've been wet through twice
a-dayeither in snow or rainthis last fortnight. Cainy
and I haven't tined our eyes to-night."


A good few twins, too, I hear?

Too many by half. Yes; 'tis a very queer lambing this
year. We shan't have done by Lady Day.

And last year 'twer all over by Sexajessamine Sunday,
Joseph remarked.

Bring on the rest Cain,said Gabriel and then run back
to the ewes. I'll follow you soon.

Cainy Ball -- a cheery-faced young ladwith a small
circular orifice by way of mouthadvanced and deposited two
othersand retired as he was bidden. Oak lowered the lambs
from their unnatural elevationwrapped them in hayand
placed them round the fire.

We've no lambing-hut here, as I used to have at Norcombe,
said Gabriel and 'tis such a plague to bring the weakly
ones to a house. If 'twasn't for your place here, malter, I
don't know what I should do! this keen weather. And how is
it with you to-day, malter?

Oh, neither sick nor sorry, shepherd; but no younger.

Ay -- I understand.

Sit down, Shepherd Oak,continued the ancient man of malt.
And how was the old place at Norcombe, when ye went for
your dog? I should like to see the old familiar spot; but
faith, I shouldn't know a soul there now.

I suppose you wouldn't. 'Tis altered very much.

Is it true that Dicky Hill's wooden cider-house is pulled
down?

Oh yes -- years ago, and Dicky's cottage just above it.

Well, to be sure!

Yes; and Tompkins's old apple-tree is rooted that used to
bear two hogsheads of cider; and no help from other trees.

Rooted? -- you don't say it! Ah! stirring times we live in
-- stirring times.

And you can mind the old well that used to be in the middle
of the place? That's turned into a solid iron pump with a
large stone trough, and all complete.

Dear, dear -- how the face of nations alter, and what we
live to see nowadays! Yes -- and 'tis the same here.
They've been talking but now of the mis'ess's strange
doings.

What have you been saying about her?inquired Oaksharply
turning to the restand getting very warm.

These middle-aged men have been pulling her over the coals
for pride and vanity,said Mark Clark; "but I saylet her
have rope enough. Bless her pretty face shouldn't I like to
do so -- upon her cherry lips!" The gallant Mark Clark here


made a peculiar and well known sound with his own.

Mark,said Gabrielsternlynow you mind this! none of
that dalliance-talk -- that smack-and-coddle style of yours
-- about Miss Everdene. I don't allow it. Do you hear?

With all my heart, as I've got no chance,replied Mr.
Clarkcordially.

I suppose you've been speaking against her?said Oak
turning to Joseph Poorgrass with a very grim look.

No, no -- not a word I -- 'tis a real joyful thing that
she's no worse, that's what I say,said Josephtrembling
and blushing with terror. "Matthew just said ----"

Matthew Moon, what have you been saying?asked Oak.

I? Why ye know I wouldn't harm a worm -- no, not one
underground worm?said Matthew Moonlooking very uneasy.

Well, somebody has -- and look here, neighbours,Gabriel
though one of the quietest and most gentle men on earth
rose to the occasionwith martial promptness and vigour.
That's my fist.Here he placed his fistrather smaller in
size than a common loafin the mathematical centre of the
maltster's little tableand with it gave a bump or two
thereonas if to ensure that their eyes all thoroughly took
in the idea of fistiness before he went further. "Now -the
first man in the parish that I hear prophesying bad of
our mistresswhy" (here the fist was raised and let fall as
Thor might have done with his hammer in assaying it) -"
he'll smell and taste that -- or I'm a Dutchman."

All earnestly expressed by their features that their minds
did not wander to Holland for a moment on account of this
statementbut were deploring the difference which gave rise
to the figure; and Mark Clark cried "Hearhear; just what I
should ha' said." The dog George looked up at the same time
after the shepherd's menaceand though he understood
English but imperfectlybegan to growl.

Now, don't ye take on so, shepherd, and sit down!said
Henerywith a deprecating peacefulness equal to anything of
the kind in Christianity.

We hear that ye be a extraordinary good and clever man,
shepherd,said Joseph Poorgrass with considerable anxiety
from behind the maltster's bedstead whither he had retired
for safety. "'Tis a great thing to be cleverI'm sure he
added, making movements associated with states of mind
rather than body; we wish we weredon't weneighbours?"

Ay, that we do, sure,said Matthew Moonwith a small
anxious laugh towards Oakto show how very friendly
disposed he was likewise.

Who's been telling you I'm clever?said Oak.

'Tis blowed about from pillar to post quite common,said
Matthew. "We hear that ye can tell the time as well by the
stars as we can by the sun and moonshepherd."

Yes, I can do a little that way,said Gabrielas a man of


medium sentiments on the subject.

And that ye can make sun-dials and prent folks' names upon
their waggons almost like copper-platewith beautiful
flourishesand great long tails. A excellent fine thing
for ye to be such a clever manshepherd. Joseph Poorgrass
used to prent to Farmer James Everdene's waggons before you
cameand 'a could never mind which way to turn the J's and
E's -- could yeJoseph?" Joseph shook his head to express
how absolute was the fact that he couldn't. "And so you
used to do 'em the wrong waylike thisdidn't yeJoseph?"
Matthew marked on the dusty floor with his whip-handle.

[the word J A M E S appears here with the "J" and "E"
printed as mirror images]

And how Farmer James would cuss, and call thee a fool,
wouldn't he, Joseph, when 'a seed his name looking so
inside-out-like?continued Matthew Moon with feeling.

Ay -- 'a would,said Josephmeekly. "Butyou seeI
wasn't so much to blamefor them J's and E's be such trying
sons o' witches for the memory to mind whether they face
backward or forward; and I always had such a forgetful
memorytoo."

'Tis a very bad afiction for ye, being such a man of
calamities in other ways.

Well, 'tis; but a happy Providence ordered that it should
be no worse, and I feel my thanks. As to shepherd, there,
I'm sure mis'ess ought to have made ye her baily -- such a
fitting man for't as you be.

I don't mind owning that I expected it,said Oakfrankly.
Indeed, I hoped for the place. At the same time, Miss
Everdene has a right to be her own baily if she choose -and
to keep me down to be a common shepherd only.Oak drew
a slow breathlooked sadly into the bright ashpitand
seemed lost in thoughts not of the most hopeful hue.

The genial warmth of the fire now began to stimulate the
nearly lifeless lambs to bleat and move their limbs briskly
upon the hayand to recognize for the first time the fact
that they were born. Their noise increased to a chorus of
baasupon which Oak pulled the milk-can from before the
fireand taking a small tea-pot from the pocket of his
smock-frockfilled it with milkand taught those of the
helpless creatures which were not to be restored to their
dams how to drink from the spout -- a trick they acquired
with astonishing aptitude.

And she don't even let ye have the skins of the dead lambs,
I hear?resumed Joseph Poorgrasshis eyes lingering on the
operations of Oak with the necessary melancholy.

I don't have them,said Gabriel.

Ye be very badly used, shepherd,hazarded Joseph againin
the hope of getting Oak as an ally in lamentation after all.
I think she's took against ye -- that I do.

Oh no -- not at all,replied Gabrielhastilyand a sigh
escaped himwhich the deprivation of lamb skins could


hardly have caused.

Before any further remark had been added a shade darkened
the doorand Boldwood entered the malthousebestowing upon
each a nod of a quality between friendliness and
condescension.

Ah! Oak, I thought you were here,he said. "I met the
mail-cart ten minutes agoand a letter was put into my
handwhich I opened without reading the address. I believe
it is yours. You must excuse the accident please."

Oh yes -- not a bit of difference, Mr. Boldwood -- not a
bit,said Gabrielreadily. He had not a correspondent on
earthnor was there a possible letter coming to him whose
contents the whole parish would not have been welcome to
persue.

Oak stepped asideand read the following in an unknown
hand: -


DEAR FRIEND, -- I do not know your name, but l think these
few lines will reach you, which I wrote to thank you for
your kindness to me the night I left Weatherbury in a
reckless way. I also return the money I owe you, which you
will excuse my not keeping as a gift. All has ended well,
and I am happy to say I am going to be married to the young
man who has courted me for some time -- Sergeant Troy, of
the 11th Dragoon Guards, now quartered in this town. He
would, I know, object to my having received anything except
as a loan, being a man of great respectability and high
honour -- indeed, a nobleman by blood.

I should be much obliged to you if you would keep the
contents of this letter a secret for the presentdear
friend. We mean to surprise Weatherbury by coming there
soon as husband and wifethough l blush to state it to one
nearly a stranger. The sergeant grew up in Weatherbury.
Thanking you again for your kindness

I amyour sincere well-wisher
FANNY ROBIN."

Have you read it, Mr. Boldwood?said Gabriel; "if notyou
had better do so. I know you are interested in Fanny
Robin."

Boldwood read the letter and looked grieved.

Fanny -- poor Fanny! the end she is so confident of has not
yet come, she should remember -- and may never come. I see
she gives no address.

What sort of a man is this Sergeant Troy?said Gabriel.

H'm -- I'm afraid not one to build much hope upon in such a
case as this,the farmer murmuredthough he's a clever
fellow, and up to everything. A slight romance attaches to
him, too. His mother was a French governess, and it seems
that a secret attachment existed between her and the late
Lord Severn. She was married to a poor medical man, and
soon after an infant was horn; and while money was
forthcoming all went on well. Unfortunately for her boy,


his best friends died; and he got then a situation as second
clerk at a lawyer's in Casterbridge. He stayed there for
some time, and might have worked himself into a dignified
position of some sort had he not indulged in the wild freak
of enlisting. I have much doubt if ever little Fanny will
surprise us in the way she mentions -- very much doubt. A
silly girl! -- silly girl!

The door was hurriedly burst open againand in came running
Cainy Ball out of breathhis mouth red and openlike the
bell of a penny trumpetfrom which he coughed with noisy
vigour and great distension of face.

Now, Cain Ball,said Oaksternlywhy will you run so
fast and lose your breath so? I'm always telling you of it.

Oh -- I -- a puff of mee breath -- went -- the -- wrong
way, please, Mister Oak, and made me cough -- hok -- hok!

Well -- what have you come for?

I've run to tell ye,said the junior shepherdsupporting
his exhausted youthful frame against the doorpostthat you
must come directly. Two more ewes have twinned -- that's
what's the matter, Shepherd Oak.

Oh, that's it,said Oakjumping upand dimissing for the
present his thoughts on poor Fanny. "You are a good boy to
run and tell meCainand you shall smell a large plum
pudding some day as a treat. Butbefore we goCainy
bring the tarpotand we'll mark this lot and have done with
'em."

Oak took from his illimitable pockets a marking irondipped
it into the potand imprintcd on the buttocks of the infant
sheep the initials of her he delighted to muse on -- "B.
E. which signified to all the region round that henceforth
the lambs belonged to Farmer Bathsheba Everdene, and to no
one else.

NowCainyshoulder your twoand off. Good morningMr.
Boldwood." The shepherd lifted the sixteen large legs and
four small bodies he had himself broughtand vanished with
them in the direction of the lambing field hard by -- their
frames being now in a sleek and hopeful statepleasantly
contrasting with their death's-door plight of half an hour
before.

Boldwood followed him a little way up the fieldhesitated
and turned back. He followed him again with a last resolve
annihilating return. On approaching the nook in which the
fold was constructedthe farmer drew out his pocket-book
unfastened-itand allowed it to lie open on his hand. A
letter was revealed -- Bathsheba's.

I was going to ask you, Oak,he saidwith unreal
carelessnessif you know whose writing this is?

Oak glanced into the bookand replied instantlywith a
flushed faceMiss Everdene's.

Oak had coloured simply at the consciousness of sounding her
name. He now felt a strangely distressing qualm from a new
thought. "The letter could of course be no other than


anonymousor the inquiry would not have been necessary.

Boldwood mistook his confusion: sensitive persons are
always ready with their "Is it I?" in preference to
objective reasoning.

The question was perfectly fair,he returned -- and there
was something incongruous in the serious earnestness with
which he applied himself to an argument on a valentine.
You know it is always expected that privy inquiries will be
made: that's where the -- fun lies.If the word "fun" had
been "torture." it could not have been uttered with a more
constrained and restless countenance than was Boldwood's
then."

Soon parting from Gabrielthe lonely and reserved man
returned to his house to breakfast -- feeling twinges of
shame and regret at having so far exposed his mood by those
fevered questions to a stranger. He again placed the letter
on the mantelpieceand sat down to think of the
circumstances attending it by the light of Gabriel's
information.

CHAPTER XVI

ALL SAINTS' AND ALL SOULS'

ON a week-day morning a small congregationconsisting
mainly of women and girlsrose from its knees in the mouldy
nave of a church called All Saints'in the distant barracktown
before mentionedat the end of a service without a
sermon. They were about to dispersewhen a smart footstep
entering the porch and coming up the central passage
arrested their attention. The step echoed with a ring
unusual in a church; it was the clink of spurs. Everybody
looked. A young cavalry soldier in a red uniformwith the
three chevrons of a sergeant upon his sleevestrode up the
aislewith an embarrassment which was only the more marked
by the intense vigour of his stepand by the determination
upon his face to show none. A slight flush had mounted his
cheek by the time he had run the gauntlet between these
women; butpassing on through the chancel archhe never
paused till he came close to the altar railing. Here for a
moment he stood alone.

The officiating curatewho had not yet doffed his surplice
perceived the new-comerand followed him to the communionspace.
He whispered to the soldierand then beckoned to
the clerkwho in his turn whispered to an elderly woman
apparently his wifeand they also went up the chancel
steps.

'Tis a wedding!murmured some of the womenbrightening.
Let's wait!

The majority again sat down.

There was a creaking of machinery behindand some of the
young ones turned their heads. From the interior face of
the west wall of the tower projected a little canopy with a
quarter-jack and small bell beneath itthe automaton being


driven by the same clock machinery that struck the large
bell in the tower. Between the tower and the church was a
close screenthe door of which was kept shut during
serviceshiding this grotesque clockwork from sight. At
presenthoweverthe door was openand the egress of the
jackthe blows on the belland the mannikin's retreat into
the nook againwere visible to manyand audible throughout
the church.

The jack had struck half-past eleven.

Where's the woman?whispered some of the spectators.

The young sergeant stood still with the abnormal rigidity of
the old pillars around. He faced the south-eastand was as
silent as he was still.

The silence grew to be a noticeable thing as the minutes
went onand nobody else appearedand not a soul moved.
The rattle of the quarter-jack again from its nicheits
blows for three-quartersits fussy retreatwere almost
painfully abruptand caused many of the congregation to
start palpably.

I wonder where the woman is!a voice whispered again.

There began now that slight shifting of feetthat
artificial coughing among severalwhich betrays a nervous
suspense. At length there was a titter. But the soldier
never moved. There he stoodhis face to the south-east
upright as a columnhis cap in his hand.

The clock ticked on. The women threw off their nervousness
and titters and giggling became more frequent. Then came a
dead silence. Every one was waiting for the end. Some
persons may have noticed how extraordinarily the striking of
quarters. seems to quicken the flight of time. It was
hardly credible that the jack had not got wrong with the
minutes when the rattle began againthe puppet emergedand
the four quarters were struck fitfully as before: One could
almost be positive that there was a malicious leer upon the
hideous creature's faceand a mischievous delight in its
twitchings. Thenfollowed the dull and remote resonance of
the twelve heavy strokes in the tower above. The women were
impressedand there was no giggle this time.

The clergyman glided into the vestryand the clerk
vanished. The sergeant had not yet turned; every woman in
the church was waiting to see his faceand he appeared to
know it. At last he did turnand stalked resolutely down
the navebraving them allwith a compressed lip. Two
bowed and toothless old almsmen then looked at each other
and chuckledinnocently enough; but the sound had a strange
weird effect in that place.

Opposite to the church was a paved squarearound which
several overhanging wood buildings of old time cast a
picturesque shade. The young man on leaving the door went
to cross the squarewhenin the middlehe met a little
woman. The expression of her facewhich had been one of
intense anxietysank at the sight of his nearly to terror.

Well?he saidin a suppressed passionfixedly looking at
her.


Oh, Frank -- I made a mistake! -- I thought that church
with the spire was All Saints', and I was at the door at
half-past eleven to a minute as you said. I waited till a
quarter to twelve, and found then that I was in All Souls'.
But I wasn't much frightened, for I thought it could be tomorrow
as well.

You fool, for so fooling me! But say no more.

Shall it be to-morrow, Frank?she asked blankly.

To-morrow!and he gave vent to a hoarse laugh. "I don't
go through that experience again for some timeI warrant
you!"

But after all,she expostulated in a trembling voicethe
mistake was not such a terrible thing! Now, dear Frank, when
shall it be?

Ah, when? God knows!he saidwith a light ironyand
turning from her walked rapidly away.

CHAPTER XVII

IN THE MARKET-PLACE

ON Saturday Boldwood was in Casterbridge market house as
usualwhen the disturber of his dreams entered and became
visible to him. Adam had awakened from his deep sleepand
behold! there was Eve. The farmer took courageand for the
first time really looked at her.

Material causes and emotional effects are not to be arranged
in regular equation. The result from capital employed in
the production of any movement of a mental nature is
sometimes as tremendous as the cause itself is absurdly
minute. When women are in a freakish moodtheir usual
intuitioneither from carelessness or inherent defect
seemingly fails to teach them thisand hence it was that
Bathsheba was fated to be astonished today.

Boldwood looked at her -- not slilycriticallyor
understandinglybut blankly at gazein the way a reaper
looks up at a passing train -- as something foreign to his
elementand but dimly understood. To Boldwood women had
been remote phenomena rather than necessary complements -comets
of such uncertain aspectmovementand permanence
that whether their orbits were as geometricalunchangeable
and as subject to laws as his ownor as absolutely erratic
as they superficially appearedhe had not deemed it his
duty to consider.

He saw her black hairher correct facial curves and
profileand the roundness of her chin and throat. He saw
then the side of her eyelidseyesand lashesand the
shape of her ear. Next he noticed her figureher skirt
and the very soles of her shoes.

Boldwood thought her beautifulbut wondered whether he was
right in his thoughtfor it seemed impossible that this


romance in the fleshif so sweet as he imaginedcould have
been going on long without creating a commotion of delight
among menand provoking more inquiry than Bathsheba had
doneeven though that was not a little. To the best of his
judgement neither nature nor art could improve this perfect
one of an imperfect many. His heart began to move within
him. Boldwoodit must be rememberedthough forty years of
agehad never before inspected a woman with the very centre
and force of his glance; they had struck upon all his senses
at wide angles.

Was she really beautiful? He could not assure himself that
his opinion was true even now. He furtively said to a
neighbourIs Miss Everdene considered handsome?

Oh yes; she was a good deal noticed the first time she
came, if you remember. A very handsome girl indeed.

A man is never more credulous than in receiving favourable
opinions on the beauty of a woman he is halfor quitein
love with; a mere child's word on the point has the weight
of an R.A.'s. Boldwood was satisfied now.

And this charming woman had in effect said to himMarry
me.Why should she have done that strange thing?
Boldwood's blindness to the difference between approving of
what circumstances suggestand originating what they do not
suggestwas well matched by Bathsheba's insensibility to
the possibly great issues of little beginnings.

She was at this moment coolly dealing with a dashing young
farmeradding up accounts with him as indifferently as if
his face had been the pages of a ledger. It was evident
that such a nature as his had no attraction for a woman of
Bathsheba's taste. But Boldwood grew hot down to his hands
with an incipient jealousy; he trod for the first time the
threshold of "the injured lover's hell." His first impulse
was to go and thrust himself between them. This could be
donebut only in one way -- by asking to see a sample of
her corn. Boldwood renounced the idea. He could not make
the request; it was debasing loveliness to ask it to buy and
selland jarred with his conceptions of her.

All this time Bathsheba was conscious of having broken into
that dignified stronghold at last. His eyesshe knewwere
following her everywhere. This was a triumph; and had it
come naturallysuch a triumph would have been the sweeter
to her for this piquing delay. But it had been brought
about by misdirected ingenuityand she valued it only as
she valued an artificial flower or a wax fruit.

Being a woman with some good sense in reasoning on subjects
wherein her heart was not involvedBathsheba genuinely
repented that a freak which had owed its existence as much
to Liddy as to herselfshould ever have been undertakento
disturb the placidity of a man she respected too highly to
deliberately tease.

She that day nearly formed the intention of begging his
pardon on the very next occasion of their meeting. The
worst features of this arrangement were thatif he thought
she ridiculed himan apology would increase the offence by
being disbelieved; and if he thought she wanted him to woo
herit would read like additional evidence of her


forwardness.

CHAPTER XVIII

BOLDWOOD IN MEDITATION -- REGRET

BOLDWOOD was tenant of what was called Little Weatherbury
Farmand his person was the nearest approach to aristocracy
that this remoter quarter of the parish could boast of.
Genteel strangerswhose god was their townwho might
happen to be compelled to linger about this nook for a day
heard the sound of light wheelsand prayed to see good
societyto the degree of a solitary lordor squire at the
very leastbut it was only Mr. Boldwood going out for the
day. They heard the sound of wheels yet once moreand were
re-animated to expectancy: it was only Mr. Boldwood coming
home again.

His house stood recessed from the roadand the stables
which are to a farm what a fireplace is to a roomwere
behindtheir lower portions being lost amid bushes of
laurel. Inside the blue dooropen half-way downwere to
be seen at this time the backs and tails of half-a-dozen
warm and contented horses standing in their stalls; and as
thus viewedthey presented alternations of roan and bayin
shapes like a Moorish archthe tail being a streak down the
midst of each. Over theseand lost to the eye gazing in
from the outer lightthe mouths of the same animals could
be heard busily sustaining the above-named warmth and
plumpness by quantities of oats and hay. The restless and
shadowy figure of a colt wandered about a loose-box at the
endwhilst the steady grind of all the eaters was
occasionally diversified by the rattle of a rope or the
stamp of a foot.

Pacing up and down at the heels of the animals was Farmer
Boldwood himself. This place was his almonry and cloister
in one: hereafter looking to the feeding of his fourfooted
dependantsthe celibate would walk and meditate of
an evening till the moon's rays streamed in through the
cobwebbed windowsor total darkness enveloped the scene.

His square-framed perpendicularity showed more fully now
than in the crowd and bustle of the market-house. In this
meditative walk his foot met the floor with heel and toe
simultaneouslyand his fine reddish-fleshed face was bent
downwards just enough to render obscure the still mouth and
the well-rounded though rather prominent and broad chin. A
few clear and thread-like horizontal lines were the only
interruption to the otherwise smooth surface of his large
forehead.

The phases of Boldwood's life were ordinary enoughbut his
was not an ordinary nature. That stillnesswhich struck
casual observers more than anything else in his character
and habitand seemed so precisely like the rest of
inanitionmay have been the perfect balance of enormous
antagonistic forces -- positives and negatives in fine
adjustment. His equilibrium disturbedhe was in extremity
at once. If an emotion possessed him at allit ruled him;
a feeling not mastering him was entirely latent. Stagnant


or rapidit was never slow. He was always hit mortallyor
he was missed.

He had no light and careless touches in his constitution
either for good or for evil. Stern in the outlines of
actionmild in the detailshe was serious throughout all.
He saw no absurd sides to the follies of lifeand thus
though not quite companionable in the eyes of merry men and
scoffersand those to whom all things show life as a jest
he was not intolerable to the earnest and those acquainted
with grief. Being a man-who read all the dramas of life
seriouslyif he failed to please when they were comedies
there was no frivolous treatment to reproach him for when
they chanced to end tragically.

Bathsheba was far from dreaming that the dark and silent
shape upon which she had so carelessly thrown a seed was a
hotbed of tropic intensity. Had she known Boldwood's moods
her blame would have been fearfuland the stain upon her
heart ineradicable. Moreoverhad she known her present
power for good or evil over this manshe would have
trembled at her responsibility. Luckily for her present
unluckily for her future tranquillityher understanding had
not yet told her what Boldwood was. Nobody knew entirely;
for though it was possible to form guesses concerning his
wild capabilities from old floodmarks faintly visiblehe
had never been seen at the high tides which caused them.

Farmer Boldwood came to the stable-door and looked forth
across the level fields. Beyond the first enclosure was a
hedgeand on the other side of this a meadow belonging to
Bathsheba's farm.

It was now early spring -- the time of going to grass with
the sheepwhen they have the first feed of the meadows
before these are laid up for mowing. The windwhich had
been blowing east for several weekshad veered to the
southwardand the middle of spring had come abruptly -almost
without a beginning. It was that period in the
vernal quarter when we map suppose the Dryads to be waking
for the season. The vegetable world begins to move and
swell and the saps to risetill in the completest silence
of lone gardens and trackless plantationswhere everything
seems helpless and still after the bond and slavery of
frostthere are bustlingsstrainingsunited thrustsand
pulls-all-togetherin comparison with which the powerful
tugs of cranes and pulleys in a noisy city are but pigmy
efforts.

Boldwoodlooking into the distant meadowssaw there three
figures. They were those of Miss EverdeneShepherd Oak
and Cainy Ball.

When Bathsheba's figure shone upon the farmer's eyes it
lighted him up as the moon lights up a great tower. A man's
body is as the shellor the tabletof his soulas he is
reserved or ingenuousoverflowing or self-contained. There
was a change in Boldwood's exterior from its former
impassibleness; and his face showed that he was now living
outside his defences for the first timeand with a fearful
sense of exposure. It is the usual experience of strong
natures when they love.

At last he arrived at a conclusion. It was to go across and


inquire boldly of her.

The insulation of his heart by reserve during these many
yearswithout a channel of any kind for disposable emotion
had worked its effect. It has been observed more than once
that the causes of love are chiefly subjectiveand Boldwood
was a living testimony to the truth of the proposition. No
mother existed to absorb his devotionno sister for his
tendernessno idle ties for sense. He became surcharged
with the compoundwhich was genuine lover's love.

He approached the gate of the meadow. Beyond it the ground
was melodious with ripplesand the sky with larks; the low
bleating of the flock mingling with both. Mistress and man
were engaged in the operation of making a lamb "take which
is performed whenever an ewe has lost her own offspring, one
of the twins of another ewe being given her as a substitute.
Gabriel had skinned the dead lamb, and was tying the skin
over the body of the live lamb, in the customary manner,
whilst Bathsheba was holding open a little pen of four
hurdles, into which the Mother and foisted lamb were driven,
where they would remain till the old sheep conceived an
affection for the young one.

Bathsheba looked up at the completion of the manouvre, and
saw the farmer by the gate, where he was overhung by a
willow tree in full bloom. Gabriel, to whom her face was as
the uncertain glory of an April day, was ever regardful of
its faintest changes, and instantly discerned thereon the
mark of some influence from without, in the form of a keenly
self-conscious reddening. He also turned and beheld
Boldwood.

At once connecting these signs with the letter Boldwood had
shown him, Gabriel suspected her of some coquettish
procedure begun by that means, and carried on since, he knew
not how.

Farmer Boldwood had read the pantomime denoting that they
were aware of his presence, and the perception was as too
much light turned upon his new sensibility. He was still in
the road, and by moving on he hoped that neither would
recognize that he had originally intended to enter the
field. He passed by with an utter and overwhelming
sensation of ignorance, shyness, and doubt. Perhaps in her
manner there were signs that she wished to see him -perhaps
not -- he could not read a woman. The cabala of
this erotic philosophy seemed to consist of the subtlest
meanings expressed in misleading ways. Every turn, look,
word, and accent contained a mystery quite distinct from its
obvious import, and not one had ever been pondered by him
until now.

As for Bathsheba, she was not deceived into the belief that
Farmer Boldwood had walked by on business or in idleness.
She collected the probabilities of the case, and concluded
that she was herself responsible for Boldwood's appearance
there. It troubled her much to see what a great flame a
little wildfire was likely to kindle. Bathsheba was no
schemer for marriage, nor was she deliberately a trifler
with the affections of men, and a censor's experience on
seeing an actual flirt after observing her would have been a
feeling of surprise that Bathsheba could be so different
from such a one, and yet so like what a flirt is supposed to


be.

She resolved never again, by look or by sign, to interrupt
the steady flow of this man's life. But a resolution to
avoid an evil is seldom framed till the evil is so far
advanced as to make avoidance impossible.

CHAPTER XIX

THE SHEEP-WASHING -- THE OFFER

BOLDWOOD did eventually call upon her. She was not at home.
Of course not he murmured. In contemplating Bathsheba as
a woman, he had forgotten the accidents of her position as
an agriculturist -- that being as much of a farmer, and as
extensive a farmer, as himself, her probable whereabouts was
out-of-doors at this time of the year. This, and the other
oversights Boldwood was guilty of, were natural to the mood,
and still more natural to the circumstances. The great aids
to idealization in love were present here: occasional
observation of her from a distance, and the absence of
social intercourse with her -- visual familiarity, oral
strangeness. The smaller human elements were kept out of
sight; the pettinesses that enter so largely into all
earthly living and doing were disguised by the accident of
lover and loved-one not being on visiting terms; and there
was hardly awakened a thought in Boldwood that sorry
household realities appertained to her, or that she, like
all others, had moments of commonplace, when to be least
plainly seen was to be most prettily remembered. Thus a
mild sort of apotheosis took place in his fancy, whilst she
still lived and breathed within his own horizon, a troubled
creature like himself.

It was the end of May when the farmer determined to be no
longer repulsed by trivialities or distracted by suspense.
He had by this time grown used to being in love; the passion
now startled him less even when it tortured him more, and he
felt himself adequate to the situation. On inquiring for
her at her house they had told him she was at the
sheepwashing, and he went off to seek her there.

The sheep-washing pool was a perfectly circular basin of
brickwork in the meadows, full of the clearest water. To
birds on the wing its glassy surface, reflecting the light
sky, must have been visible for miles around as a glistening
Cyclops' eye in a green face. The grass about the margin at
this season was a sight to remember long -- in a minor sort
of way. Its activity in sucking the moisture from the rich
damp sod was almost a process observable by the eye. The
outskirts of this level water-meadow were diversified by
rounded and hollow pastures, where just now every flower
that was not a buttercup was a daisy. The river slid along
noiselessly as a shade, the swelling reeds and sedge forming
a flexible palisade upon its moist brink. To the north of
the mead were trees, the leaves of which were new, soft, and
moist, not yet having stiffened and darkened under summer
sun and drought, their colour being yellow beside a green -green
beside a yellow. From the recesses of this knot of
foliage the loud notes of three cuckoos were resounding
through the still air.


Boldwood went meditating down the slopes with his eyes on
his boots, which the yellow pollen from the buttercups had
bronzed in artistic gradations. A tributary of the main
stream flowed through the basin of the pool by an inlet and
outlet at opposite points of its diameter. Shepherd Oak,
Jan Coggan, Moon, Poorgrass, Cain Ball, and several others
were assembled here, all dripping wet to the very roots of
their hair, and Bathsheba was standing by in a new ridinghabit
-- the most elegant she had ever worn -- the reins of
her horse being looped over her arm. Flagons of cider were
rolling about upon the green. The meek sheep were pushed
into the pool by Coggan and Matthew Moon, who stood by the
lower hatch, immersed to their waists; then Gabriel, who
stood on the brink, thrust them under as they swam along,
with an instrument like a crutch, formed for the purpose,
and also for assisting the exhausted animals when the wool
became saturated and they began to sink. They were let out
against the stream, and through the upper opening, all
impurities flowing away below. Cainy Ball and Joseph, who
performed this latter operation, were if possible wetter
than the rest; they resembled dolphins under a fountain,
every protuberance and angle of their clothes dribbling
forth a small rill.

Boldwood came close and bade her good morning, with such
constraint that she could not but think he had stepped
across to the washing for its own sake, hoping not to find
her there; more, she fancied his brow severe and his eye
slighting. Bathsheba immediately contrived to withdraw, and
glided along by the river till she was a stone's throw off.
She heard footsteps brushing the grass, and had a
consciousness that love was encircling her like a perfume.
Instead of turning or waiting, Bathsheba went further among
the high sedges, but Boldwood seemed determined, and pressed
on till they were completely past the bend of the river.
Here, without being seen, they could hear the splashing and
shouts of the washers above.

Miss Everdene!" said the farmer.

She trembledturnedand said "Good morning." His tone was
so utterly removed from all she had expected as a beginning.
It was lowness and quiet accentuated: an emphasis of deep
meaningstheir format the same timebeing scarcely
expressed. Silence has sometimes a remarkable power of
showing itself as the disembodied soul of feeling wandering
without its carcaseand it is then more impressive than
speech. In the same wayto say a little is often to tell
more than to say a great deal. Boldwood told everything in
that word.

As the consciousness expands on learning that what was
fancied to be the rumble of wheels is the reverberation of
thunderso did Bathsheba's at her intuitive conviction.

I feel -- almost too much -- to think,he saidwith a
solemn simplicity. "I have come to speak to you without
preface. My life is not my own since I have beheld you
clearlyMiss Everdene -- I come to make you an offer of
marriage."

Bathsheba tried to preserve an absolutely neutral
countenanceand all the motion she made was that of closing


lips which had previously been a little parted.

I am now forty-one years old,he went on. "I may have
been called a confirmed bachelorand I was a confirmed
bachelor. I had never any views of myself as a husband in
my earlier daysnor have I made any calculation on the
subject since I have been older. But we all changeand my
changein this mattercame with seeing you. I have felt
latelymore and morethat my present way of living is bad
in every respect. Beyond all thingsI want you as my
wife."

I feel, Mr. Boldwood, that though I respect you much, I do
not feel -- what would justify me to -- in accepting your
offer,she stammered.

This giving back of dignity for dignity seemed to open the
sluices of feeling that Boldwood had as yet kept closed.

My life is a burden without you,he exclaimedin a low
voice. "I want you -- I want you to let me say I love you
again and again!"

Bathsheba answered nothingand the horse upon her arm
seemed so impressed that instead of cropping the herbage she
looked up.

I think and hope you care enough for me to listen to what I
have to tell!

Bathsheba's momentary impulse at hearing this was to ask why
he thought thattill she remembered thatfar from being a
conceited assumption on Boldwood's partit was but the
natural conclusion of serious reflection based on deceptive
premises of her own offering.

I wish I could say courteous flatteries to you,the farmer
continued in an easier toneand put my rugged feeling into
a graceful shape: but I have neither power nor patience to
learn such things. I want you for my wife -- so wildly that
no other feeling can abide in me; but I should not have
spoken out had I not been led to hope.

The valentine again! O that valentine!she said to
herselfbut not a word to him.

If you can love me say so, Miss Everdene. If not -- don't
say no!

Mr. Boldwood, it is painful to have to say I am surprised,
so that I don't know how to answer you with propriety and
respect -- but am only just able to speak out my feeling -I
mean my meaning; that I am afraid I can't marry you, much
as I respect you. You are too dignified for me to suit you,
sir.

But, Miss Everdene!

I -- I didn't -- I know I ought never to have dreamt of
sending that valentine -- forgive me, sir -- it was a wanton
thing which no woman with any self-respect should have done.
If you will only pardon my thoughtlessness, I promise never
to ----


No, no, no. Don't say thoughtlessness! Make me think it
was something more -- that it was a sort of prophetic
instinct -- the beginning of a feeling that you would like
me. You torture me to say it was done in thoughtlessness -I
never thought of it in that light, and I can't endure it.
Ah! I wish I knew how to win you! but that I can't do -- I
can only ask if I have already got you. If I have not, and
it is not true that you have come unwittingly to me as I
have to you, I can say no more.

I have not fallen in love with you, Mr. Boldwood -certainly
I must say that.She allowed a very small smile
to creep for the first time over her serious face in saying
thisand the white row of upper teethand keenly-cut lips
already noticedsuggested an idea of heartlessnesswhich
was immediately contradicted by the pleasant eyes.

But you will just think -- in kindness and condescension
think -- if you cannot bear with me as a husband! I fear I
am too old for you, but believe me I will take more care of
you than would many a man of your own age. I will protect
and cherish you with all my strength -- I will indeed! You
shall have no cares -- be worried by no household affairs,
and live quite at ease, Miss Everdene. The dairy
superintendence shall be done by a man -- I can afford it
will -- you shall never have so much as to look out of doors
at haymaking time, or to think of weather in the harvest. I
rather cling; to the chaise, because it is he same my poor
father and mother drove, but if you don't like it I will
sell it, and you shall have a pony-carriage of your own. I
cannot say how far above every other idea and object on
earth you seem to me -- nobody knows -- God only knows -how
much you are to me!

Bathsheba's heart was youngand it swelled with sympathy
for the deep-natured man who spoke so simply.

Don't say it! don't! I cannot bear you to feel so much, and
me to feel nothing. And I am afraid they will notice us,
Mr. Boldwood. Will you let the matter rest now? I cannot
think collectedly. I did not know you were going to say
this to me. Oh, I am wicked to have made you suffer so!
She was frightened as well as agitated at his vehemence.

Say then, that you don't absolutely refuse. Do not quite
refuse?

I can do nothing. I cannot answer.

I may speak to you again on the subject?"

Yes.

I may think of you?

Yes, I suppose you may think of me.

And hope to obtain you?

No -- do not hope! Let us go on.

I will call upon you again to-morrow.

No -- please not. Give me time.


Yes -- I will give you any time,he said earnestly and
gratefully. "I am happier now."

No -- I beg you! Don't be happier if happiness only comes
from my agreeing. Be neutral, Mr. Boldwood! I must think.

I will wait,he said.

And then she turned away. Boldwood dropped his gaze to the
groundand stood long like a man who did not know where he
was. Realities then returned upon him like the pain of a
wound received in an excitement which eclipses itand he
toothen went on.

CHAPTER XX

PERPLEXITY -- GRINDING THE SHEARS -- A QUARREL

HE is so disinterested and kind to offer me all that I can
desire,Bathsheba mused.

Yet Farmer Boldwoodwhether by nature kind or the reverse
to kinddid not exercise kindnesshere. The rarest
offerings of the purest loves are but a self-indulgenceand
no generosity at all.

Bathshebanot being the least in love with himwas
eventually able to look calmly at his offer. It was one
which many women of her own station in the neighbourhood
and not a few of higher rankwould have been wild to accept
and proud to publish. In every point of viewranging from
politic to passionateit was desirable that shea lonely
girlshould marryand marry this earnestwell-to-doand
respected man. He was close to her doors: his standing was
sufficient: his qualities were even supererogatory. Had
she feltwhich she did notany wish whatever for the
married state in the abstractshe could not reasonably have
rejected himbeing a woman who frequently appealed to her
understanding for deliverance from her whims. Boldwood as a
means to marriage was unexceptionable: she esteemed and
liked himyet she did not want him. It appears that
ordinary men take wives because possession is not possible
without marriageand that ordinary women accept husbands
because marriage is not possible without possession; with
totally differing aims the method is the same on both sides.
But the understood incentive on the woman's part was wanting
here. BesidesBathsheba's position as absolute mistress of
a farm and house was a novel oneand the novelty had not
yet begun to wear off.

But a disquiet filled her which was somewhat to her credit
for it would have affected few. Beyond the mentioned
reasons with which she combated her objectionsshe had a
strong feeling thathaving been the one who began the game
she ought in honesty to accept the consequences. Still the
reluctance remained. She said in the same breath that it
would be ungenerous not to marry Boldwoodand that she
couldn't do it to save her life.

Bathsheba's was an impulsive nature under a deliberative


aspect. An Elizabeth in brain and a Mary Stuart in spirit
she often performed actions of the greatest temerity with a
manner of extreme discretion. Many of her thoughts were
perfect syllogisms; unluckily they always remained thoughts.
Only a few were irrational assumptions; butunfortunately
they were the ones which most frequently grew into deeds.

The next day to that of the declaration she found Gabriel
Oak at the bottom of her gardengrinding his shears for the
sheep-shearing. All the surrounding cottages were more or
less scenes of the same operation; the scurr of whetting
spread into the sky from all parts of the village as from an
armoury previous to a campaign. Peace and war kiss each
other at their hours of preparation -- sicklesscythes
shearsand pruning-hooksranking with swordsbayonets
and lancesin their common necessity for point and edge.

Cainy Ball turned the handle of Gabriel's grindstonehis
head performing a melancholy see-saw up and down with each
turn of the wheel. Oak stood somewhat as Eros is
represented when in the act of sharpening his arrows: his
figure slightly bentthe weight of his body thrown over on
the shearsand his head balanced side-wayswith a critical
compression of the lips and contraction of the eyelids to
crown the attitude.

His mistress came up and looked upon them in silence for a
minute or two; then she said -


Cain, go to the lower mead and catch the bay mare. I'll
turn the winch of the grindstone. I want to speak to you,
Gabriel.

Cain departed, and Bathsheba took the handle. Gabriel had
glanced up in intense surprise, quelled its expression, and
looked down again. Bathsheba turned the winch, and Gabriel
applied the shears.

The peculiar motion involved in turning a wheel has a
wonderful tendency to benumb the mind. It is a sort of
attenuated variety of Ixion's punishment, and contributes a
dismal chapter to the history of goals. The brain gets
muddled, the head grows heavy, and the body's centre of
gravity seems to settle by degrees in a leaden lump
somewhere between the eyebrows and the crown. Bathsheba
felt the unpleasant symptoms after two or three dozen turns.

Will you turnGabrieland let me hold the shears?" she
said. "My head is in a whirland I can't talk.

Gabriel turned. Bathsheba then beganwith some
awkwardnessallowing her thoughts to stray occasionally
from her story to attend to the shearswhich required a
little nicety in sharpening.

I wanted to ask you if the men made any observations on my
going behind the sedge with Mr. Boldwood yesterday?

Yes, they did,said Gabriel. "You don't hold the shears
rightmiss -- I knew you wouldn't know the way -- hold like
this."

He relinquished the winchand inclosing her two hands
completely in his own (taking each as we sometimes slap a


child's hand in teaching him to write)grasped the shears
with her. "Incline the edge so he said.

Hands and shears were inclined to suit the words, and held
thus for a peculiarly long time by the instructor as he
spoke.

That will do exclaimed Bathsheba. Loose my hands. I
won't have them held! Turn the winch."

Gabriel freed her hands quietlyretired to his handleand
the grinding went on.

Did the men think it odd?she said again.

Odd was not the idea, miss.

What did they say?

That Farmer Boldwood's name and your own were likely to be
flung over pulpit together before the year was out.

I thought so by the look of them! Why, there's nothing in
it. A more foolish remark was never made, and I want you to
contradict it! that's what I came for.

Gabriel looked incredulous and sadbut between his moments
of incredulityrelieved.

They must have heard our conversation,she continued.

Well, then, Bathsheba!said Oakstopping the handleand
gazing into her face with astonishment.

Miss Everdene, you mean,she saidwith dignity.

I mean this, that if Mr. Boldwood really spoke of marriage,
I bain't going to tell a story and say he didn't to please
you. I have already tried to please you too much for my own
good!

Bathsheba regarded him with round-eyed perplexity. She did
not know whether to pity him for disappointed love of her
or to be angry with him for having got over it -- his tone
being ambiguous.

I said I wanted you just to mention that it was not true I
was going to be married to him,she murmuredwith a slight
decline in her assurance.

I can say that to them if you wish, Miss Everdene. And I
could likewise give an opinion to 'ee on what you have
done.

I daresay. But I don't want your opinion.

I suppose not said Gabriel bitterly, and going on with his
turning, his words rising and falling in a regular swell and
cadence as he stooped or rose with the winch, which directed
them, according to his position, perpendicularly into the
earth, or horizontally along the garden, his eyes being
fixed on a leaf upon the ground.

With Bathsheba a hastened act was a rash act; but, as does


not always happen, time gained was prudence insured. It
must be added, however, that time was very seldom gained.
At this period the single opinion in the parish on herself
and her doings that she valued as sounder than her own was
Gabriel Oak's. And the outspoken honesty of his character
was such that on any subject even that of her love for, or
marriage with, another man, the same disinterestedness of
opinion might be calculated on, and be had for the asking.
Thoroughly convinced of the impossibility of his own suit, a
high resolve constrained him not to injure that of another.
This is a lover's most stoical virtue, as the lack of it is
a lover's most venial sin. Knowing he would reply truly she
asked the question, painful as she must have known the
subject would be. Such is the selfishness of some charming
women. Perhaps it was some excuse for her thus torturing
honesty to her own advantage, that she had absolutely no
other sound judgment within easy reach.

Wellwhat is your opinion of my conduct she said,
quietly.

That it is unworthy of any thoughtfuland meekand comely
woman."

In an instant Bathsheba's face coloured with the angry
crimson of a danby sunset. But she forbore to utter this
feelingand the reticence of her tongue only made the
loquacity of her face the more noticeable.

The next thing Gabriel did was to make a mistake.

Perhaps you don't like the rudeness of my reprimanding you,
for I know it is rudeness; but I thought it would do good.

She instantly replied sarcastically -


On the contrary, my opinion of you is so low, that I see in
your abuse the praise of discerning people!

I am glad you don't mind it, for I said it honestly and
with every serious meaning.

I see. But, unfortunately, when you try not to speak in
jest you are amusing -- just as when you wish to avoid
seriousness you sometimes say a sensible word.

It was a hard hitbut Bathsheba had unmistakably lost her
temperand on that account Gabriel had never in his life
kept his own better. He said nothing. She then broke out -


I may ask, I suppose, where in particular my unworthiness
lies? In my not marrying you, perhaps!

Not by any means said Gabriel quietly. I have long
given up thinking of that matter."

Or wishing it, I suppose,she said; and it was apparent
that she expected an unhesitating denial of this
supposition.

Whatever Gabriel felthe coolly echoed her words -


Or wishing it either.


A woman may be treated with a bitterness which is sweet to
herand with a rudeness which is not offensive. Bathsheba
would have submitted to an indignant chastisement for her
levity had Gabriel protested that he was loving her at the
same time; the impetuosity of passion unrequited is
bearableeven if it stings and anathematizes there is a
triumph in the humiliationand a tenderness in the strife.
This was what she had been expectingand what she had not
got. To be lectured because the lecturer saw her in the
cold morning light of open-shuttered disillusion was
exasperating. He had not finishedeither. He continued in
a more agitated voice: -


My opinion is (since you ask it) that you are greatly to
blame for playing pranks upon a man like Mr. Boldwood,
merely as a pastime. Leading on a man you don't care for is
not a praiseworthy action. And even, Miss Everdene, if you
seriously inclined towards him, you might have let him find
it out in some way of true loving-kindness, and not by
sending him a valentine's letter.

Bathsheba laid down the shears.

I cannot allow any man to -- to criticise my private
Conduct!she exclaimed. "Nor will I for a minute. So
you'll please leave the farm at the end of the week!"

It may have been a peculiarity -- at any rate it was a fact
-- that when Bathsheba was swayed by an emotion of an
earthly sort her lower lip trembled: when by a refined
emotionher upper or heavenward one. Her nether lip
quivered now.

Very well, so I will,said Gabriel calmly. He had been
held to her by a beautiful thread which it pained him to
spoil by breakingrather than by a chain he could not
break. "I should be even better pleased to go at once he
added.

Go at once thenin Heaven's name!" said sheher eyes
flashing at histhough never meeting them. "Don't let me
see your face any more."

Very well, Miss Everdene -- so it shall be.

And he took his shears and went away from her in placid
dignityas Moses left the presence of Pharaoh.

CHAPTER XXI

TROUBLES IN THE FOLD -- A MESSAGE

GABRIEL OAK had ceased to feed the Weatherbury flock for
about four-and-twenty hourswhen on Sunday afternoon the
elderly gentlemen Joseph PoorgrassMatthew MoonFrayand
half-a-dozen otherscame running up to the house of the
mistress of the Upper Farm.

Whatever IS the matter, men?she saidmeeting them at the
door just as she was coming out on her way to churchand


ceasing in a moment from the close compression of her two
red lipswith which she had accompanied the exertion of
pulling on a tight glove. "Sixty!" said Joseph Poorgrass.

Seventy!said Moon.

Fifty-nine!said Susan Tall's husband.

-- Sheep have broke fence,said Fray.

-- And got into a field of young clover,said Tall.

-- Young clover!said Moon. "-- Clover!" said Joseph
Poorgrass.

And they be getting blasted,said Henery Fray.

That they be,said Joseph.

And will all die as dead as nits, if they bain't got out
and cured!said Tall.

Joseph's countenance was drawn into lines and puckers by his
concern. Fray's forehead was wrinkled both perpendicularly
and crosswiseafter the pattern of a portcullisexpressive
of a double despair. Laban Tall's lips were thinand his
face was rigid. Matthew's jaws sankand his eyes turned
whichever way the strongest muscle happened to pull them.

Yes,said Josephand I was sitting at home, looking for
Ephesians, and says I to myself, ''Tis nothing but
Corinthians and Thessalonians in this danged Testament,'
when who should come in but Henery there: 'Joseph,' he
said, 'the sheep have blasted theirselves ----'

With Bathsheba it was a moment when thought was speech and
speech exclamation. Moreovershe had hardly recovered her
equanimity since the disturbance which she had suffered from
Oak's remarks.

That's enough -- that's enough! -- oh, you fools!she
criedthrowing the parasol and Prayer-book into the
passageand running out of doors in the direction
signified. "To come to meand not go and get them out
directly! Ohthe stupid numskulls!"

Her eyes were at their darkest and brightest now.
Bathsheba's beauty belonged rather to the demonian than to
the angelic schoolshe never looked so well as when she was
angry -- and particularly when the effect was heightened by
a rather dashing velvet dresscarefully put on before a
glass.

All the ancient men ran in a jumbled throng after her to the
clover-fieldJoseph sinking down in the midst when about
half-waylike an individual withering in a world which was
more and more insupportable. Having once received the
stimulus that her presence always gave them they went round
among the sheep with a will. The majority of the afflicted
animals were lying downand could not be stirred. These
were bodily lifted outand the others driven into the
adjoining field. Hereafter the lapse of a few minutes
several more fell downand lay helpless and livid as the
rest.


Bathshebawith a sadbursting heartlooked at these
primest specimens of her prime flock as they rolled there --

Swoln with wind and the rank mist they drew.

Many of them foamed at the mouththeir breathing being
quick and shortwhilst the bodies of all were fearfully
distended.

Oh, what can I do, what can I do!said Bathsheba
helplessly. "Sheep are such unfortunate animals! -- there's
always something happening to them! I never knew a flock
pass a year without getting into some scrape or other."

There's only one way of saving them,said Tall.

What way? Tell me quick!

They must be pierced in the side with a thing made on
purpose.

Can you do it? Can I?

No, ma'am. We can't, nor you neither. It must be done in
a particular spot. If ye go to the right or left but an
inch you stab the ewe and kill her. Not even a shepherd can
do it, as a rule.

Then they must die,she saidin a resigned tone.

Only one man in the neighbourhood knows the way,said
Josephnow just come up. "He could cure 'em all if he were
here."

Who is he? Let's get him!

Shepherd Oak,said Matthew. "Ahhe's a clever man in
talents!"

Ah, that he is so!said Joseph Poorgrass.

True -- he's the man,said Laban Tall.

How dare you name that man in my presence!she said
excitedly. "I told you never to allude to himnor shall
you if you stay with me. Ah!" she addedbrightening
Farmer Boldwood knows!

O no, ma'amsaid Matthew. "Two of his store ewes got into
some vetches t'other dayand were just like these. He sent
a man on horseback here post-haste for Gableand Gable went
and saved 'emFarmer Boldwood hev got the thing they do it
with. 'Tis a holler pipewith a sharp pricker inside.
Isn't itJoseph?"

Ay -- a holler pipe,echoed Joseph. "That's what 'tis."

Ay, sure -- that's the machine,chimed in Henery Fray
reflectivelywith an Oriental indifference to the flight of
time.


Well,burst out Bathshebadon't stand there with your
'ayes' and your 'sures' talking at me! Get somebody to cure
the sheep instantly!

All then stalked off in consternationto get somebody as
directedwithout any idea of who it was to be. In a minute
they had vanished through the gateand she stood alone with
the dying flock.

Never will I send for him never!she said firmly.

One of the ewes here contracted its muscles horribly
extended itselfand jumped high into the air. The leap was
an astonishing one. The ewe fell heavilyand lay still.

Bathsheba went up to it. The sheep was dead.

Oh, what shall I do -- what shall I do!she again
exclaimedwringing her hands. "I won't send for him. No
I won't!"

The most vigorous expression of a resolution does not always
coincide with the greatest vigour of the resolution itself.
It is often flung out as a sort of prop to support a
decaying conviction whichwhilst strongrequired no
enunciation to prove it so. The "NoI won't" of Bathsheba
meant virtuallyI think I must.

She followed her assistants through the gateand lifted her
hand to one of them. Laban answered to her signal.

Where is Oak staying?

Across the valley at Nest Cottage!

Jump on the bay mare, and ride across, and say he must
return instantly -- that I say so.

Tall scrambled off to the fieldand in two minutes was on
Pollthe baybare-backedand with only a halter by way of
rein. He diminished down the hill.

Bathsheba watched. So did all the rest. Tall cantered
along the bridle-path through Sixteen AcresSheeplands
Middle FieldThe FlatsCappel's Pieceshrank almost to a
pointcrossed the bridgeand ascended from the valley
through Springmead and Whitepits on the other side. The
cottage to which Gabriel had retired before taking his final
departure from the locality was visible as a white spot on
the opposite hillbacked by blue firs. Bathsheba walked up
and down. The men entered the field and endeavoured to ease
the anguish of the dumb creatures by rubbing them. Nothing
availed.

Bathsheba continued walking. The horse was seen descending
the hilland the wearisome series had to be repeated in
reverse order: WhitepitsSpringmeadCappel's PieceThe
FlatsMiddle FieldSheeplandsSixteen Acres. She hoped
Tall had had presence of mind enough to give the mare up to
Gabrieland return himself on foot. The rider neared them.
It was Tall.

Oh, what folly!said Bathsheba.


Gabriel was not visible anywhere.

Perhaps he is already gone!she said.

Tall came into the inclosureand leapt offhis face tragic
as Morton's after the battle of Shrewsbury.

Well?said Bathshebaunwilling to believe that her verbal
LETTRE-DE-CACHET could possibly have miscarried.

He says BEGGARS MUSTN'T BE CHOOSERS,replied Laban.

What!said the young farmeropening her eyes and drawing
in her breath for an outburst. Joseph Poorgrass retired a
few steps behind a hurdle.

He says he shall not come unless you request en to come
civilly and in a proper manner, as becomes any 'ooman
begging a favour.

Oh, oh, that's his answer! Where does he get his airs? Who
am I, then, to be treated like that? Shall I beg to a man
who has begged to me?

Another of the flock sprang into the airand fell dead.

The men looked graveas if they suppressed opinion.

Bathsheba turned asideher eyes full of tears. The strait
she was in through pride and shrewishness could not be
disguised longer: she burst out crying bitterly; they all
saw it; and she attempted no further concealment.

I wouldn't cry about it, miss,said William Small-bury
compassionately. "Why not ask him softer like? I'm sure
he'd come then. Gable is a true man in that way."

Bathsheba checked her grief and wiped her eyes. "Ohit is
a wicked cruelty to me -- it is -- it is!" she murmured.
And he drives me to do what I wouldn't; yes, he does! --
Tall, come indoors.

After this collapsenot very dignified for the head of an
establishmentshe went into the houseTall at her heels.
Here she sat down and hastily scribbled a note between the
small convulsive sobs of convalescence which follow a fit of
crying as a ground-swell follows a storm. The note was none
the less polite for being written in a hurry. She held it
at a distancewas about to fold itthen added these words
at the bottom: -


DO NOT DESERT ME, GABRIEL!

She looked a little redder in refolding itand closed her
lipsas if thereby to suspend till too late the action of
conscience in examining whether such strategy were
justifiable. The note was despatched as the message had
beenand Bathsheba waited indoors for the result.

It was an anxious quarter of an hour that intervened between
the messenger's departure and the sound of the horse's tramp
again outside. She could not watch this timebutleaning


over the old bureau at which she had written the letter
closed her eyesas if to keep out both hope and fear.

The casehoweverwas a promising one. Gabriel was not
angry: he was simply neutralalthough her first command had
been so haughty. Such imperiousness would have damned a
little less beauty; and on the other handsuch beauty would
have redeemed a little less imperiousness.

She went out when the horse was heardand looked up. A
mounted figure passed between her and the skyand drew on
towards the field of sheepthe rider turning his face in
receding. Gabriel looked at her. It was a moment when a
woman's eyes and tongue tell distinctly opposite tales.
Bathsheba looked full of gratitudeand she said: -


Oh, Gabriel, how could you serve me so unkindly!

Such a tenderly-shaped reproach for his previous delay was
the one speech in the language that he could pardon for not
being commendation of his readiness now.

Gabriel murmured a confused replyand hastened on. She
knew from the look which sentence in her note had brought
him. Bathsheba followed to the field.

Gabriel was already among the turgidprostrate forms. He
had flung off his coatrolled up his shirt-sleevesand
taken from his pocket the instrument of salvation. It was a
small tube or trocharwith a lance passing down the inside;
and Gabriel began to use it with a dexterity that would have
graced a hospital surgeon. Passing his hand over the
sheep's left flankand selecting the proper pointhe
punctured the skin and rumen with the lance as it stood in
the tube; then he suddenly withdrew the lanceretaining the
tube in its place. A current of air rushed up the tube
forcible enough to have extinguished a candle held at the
orifice.

It has been said that mere ease after torment is delight for
a time; and the countenances of these poor creatures
expressed it now. Forty-nine operations were successfully
performed. Owing to the great hurry necessitated by the
far-gone state of some of the flockGabriel missed his aim
in one caseand in one only -- striking wide of the mark
and inflicting a mortal blow at once upon the suffering ewe.
Four had died; three recovered without an operation. The
total number of sheep which had thus strayed and injured
themselves so dangerously was fifty-seven.

When the love-led man had ceased from his laboursBathsheba
came and looked him in the face.

Gabriel, will you stay on with me?she saidsmiling
winninglyand not troubling to bring her lips quite
together again at the endbecause there was going to be
another smile soon.

I will,said Gabriel.

And she smiled on him again.

CHAPTER XXII


THE GREAT BARN AND THE SHEEP-SHEARERS

MEN thin away to insignificance and oblivion quite as often
by not making the most of good spirits when they have them
as by lacking good spirits when they are indispensable.
Gabriel latelyfor the first time since his prostration by
misfortunehad been independent in thought and vigorous in
action to a marked extent -- conditions whichpowerless
without an opportunity as an opportunity without them is
barrenwould have given him a sure lift upwards when the
favourable conjunction should have occurred. But this
incurable loitering beside Bathsheba Everdene stole his time
ruinously. The spring tides were going by without floating
him offand the neap might soon come which could not.

It was the first day of Juneand the sheep-shearing season
culminatedthe landscapeeven to the leanest pasture
being all health and colour. Every green was youngevery
pore was openand every stalk was swollen with racing
currents of juice. God was palpably present in the country
and the devil had gone with the world to town. Flossy
catkins of the later kindsfern-sprouts like bishops'
croziersthe square-headed moschatelthe odd cuckoo-pint
-- like an apoplectic saint in a niche of malachite-snow-
white ladies'-smocksthe toothwortapproximating to
human fleshthe enchanter's night-shadeand the blackpetaled
doleful-bellswere among the quainter objects of
the vegetable world in and about Weatherbury at this teeming
time; and of the animalthe metamorphosed figures of Mr.
Jan Cogganthe master-shearer; the second and third
shearerswho travelled in the exercise of their calling
and do not require definition by name; Henery Fray the
fourth shearerSusan Tall's husband the fifthJoseph
Poorgrass the sixthyoung Cain Ball as assistant-shearer
and Gabriel Oak as general supervisor. None of these were
clothed to any extent worth mentioningeach appearing to
have hit in the matter of raiment the decent mean between a
high and low caste Hindoo. An angularity of lineamentand
a fixity of facial machinery in generalproclaimed that
serious work was the order of the day.

They sheared in the great barncalled for the nonce the
Shearing-barnwhich on ground-plan resembled a church with
transepts. It not only emulated the form of the
neighbouring church of the parishbut vied with it in
antiquity. Whether the barn had ever formed one of a group
of conventual buildings nobody seemed to be aware; no trace
of such surroundings remained. The vast porches at the
sideslofty enough to admit a waggon laden to its highest
with corn in the sheafwere spanned by heavy-pointed arches
of stonebroadly and boldly cutwhose very simplicity was
the origin of a grandeur not apparent in erections where
more ornament has been attempted. The duskyfilmed
chestnut roofbraced and tied in by huge collarscurves
and diagonalswas far nobler in designbecause more
wealthy in materialthan nine-tenths of those in our modern
churches. Along each side wall was a range of striding
buttressesthrowing deep shadows on the spaces between
themwhich were perforated by lancet openingscombining in
their proportions the precise requirements both of beauty
and ventilation.


One could say about this barnwhat could hardly be said of
either the church or the castleakin to it in age and
stylethat the purpose which had dictated its original
erection was the same with that to which it was still
applied. Unlike and superior to either of those two typical
remnants of mediaevalismthe old barn embodied practices
which had suffered no mutilation at the hands of time. Here
at least the spirit of the ancient builders was at one with
the spirit of the modern beholder. Standing before this
abraded pilethe eye regarded its present usagethe mind
dwelt upon its past historywith a satisfied sense of
functional continuity throughout -- a feeling almost of
gratitudeand quite of prideat the permanence of the idea
which had heaped it up. The fact that four centuries had
neither proved it to be founded on a mistakeinspired any
hatred of its purposenor given rise to any reaction that
had battered it downinvested this simple grey effort of
old minds with a reposeif not a grandeurwhich a too
curious reflection was apt to disturb in its ecclesiastical
and military compeers. For once medievalism and modernism
had a common stand-point. The lanceolate windowsthe timeeaten
arch-stones and chamfersthe orientation of the axis
the misty chestnut work of the raftersreferred to no
exploded fortifying art or worn-out religious creed. The
defence and salvation of the body by daily bread is still a
studya religionand a desire.

To-day the large side doors were thrown open towards the sun
to admit a bountiful light to the immediate spot of the
shearers' operationswhich was the wood threshing-floor in
the centreformed of thick oakblack with age and polished
by the beating of flails for many generationstill it had
grown as slippery and as rich in hue as the state-room
floors of an Elizabethan mansion. Here the shearers knelt
the sun slanting in upon their bleached shirtstanned arms
and the polished shears they flourishedcausing these to
bristle with a thousand rays strong enough to blind a weakeyed
man. Beneath them a captive sheep lay panting
quickening its pants as misgiving merged in terrortill it
quivered like the hot landscape outside.

This picture of to-day in its frame of four hundred years
ago did not produce that marked contrast between ancient and
modern which is implied by the contrast of date. In
comparison with citiesWeatherbury was immutable. The
citizen's THEN is the rustic's NOW. In Londontwenty or
thirty-years ago are old times; in Paris ten yearsor five;
in Weatherbury three or four score years were included in
the mere presentand nothing less than a century set a mark
on its face or tone. Five decades hardly modified the cut
of a gaiterthe embroidery of a smock-frockby the breadth
of a hair. Ten generations failed to alter the turn of a
single phrase. In these Wessex nooks the busy outsider's
ancient times are only old; his old times are still new; his
present is futurity.

So the barn was natural to the shearersand the shearers
were in harmony with the barn.

The spacious ends of the buildinganswering
ecclesiastically to nave and chancel extremitieswere
fenced off with hurdlesthe sheep being all collected in a
crowd within these two enclosures; and in one angle a


catching-pen was formedin which three or four sheep were
continuously kept ready for the shearers to seize without
loss of time. In the backgroundmellowed by tawny shade
were the three womenMaryann Moneyand Temperance and
Soberness Millergathering up the fleeces and twisting
ropes of wool with a wimble for tying them round. They were
indifferently well assisted by the old maltsterwhowhen
the malting season from October to April had passedmade
himself useful upon any of the bordering farmsteads.

Behind all was Bathshebacarefully watching the men to see
that there was no cutting or wounding through carelessness
and that the animals were shorn close. Gabrielwho flitted
and hovered under her bright eyes like a mothdid not shear
continuouslyhalf his time being spent in attending to the
others and selecting the sheep for them. At the present
moment he was engaged in handing round a mug of mild liquor
supplied from a barrel in the cornerand cut pieces of
bread and cheese.

Bathshebaafter throwing a glance herea caution there
and lecturing one of the younger operators who had allowed
his last finished sheep to go off among the flock without
re-stamping it with her initialscame again to Gabrielas
he put down the luncheon to drag a frightened ewe to his
shear-stationflinging it over upon its back with a
dexterous twist of the arm. He lopped off the tresses about
its headand opened up the neck and collarhis mistress
quietly looking on.

She blushes at the insult,murmured Bathshebawatching
the pink flush which arose and overspread the neck and
shoulders of the ewe where they were left bare by the
clicking shears -- a flush which was enviablefor its
delicacyby many queens of coteriesand would have been
creditablefor its promptnessto any woman in the world.

Poor Gabriel's soul was fed with a luxury of content by
having her over himher eyes critically regarding his
skilful shearswhich apparently were going to gather up a
piece of the flesh at every closeand yet never did so.
Like GuildensternOak was happy in that he was not over
happy. He had no wish to converse with her: that his bright
lady and himself formed one groupexclusively their own
and containing no others in the worldwas enough.

So the chatter was all on her side. There is a loquacity
that tells nothingwhich was Bathsheba's; and there is a
silence which says much: that was Gabriel's. Full of this
dim and temperate blisshe went on to fling the ewe over
upon her other sidecovering her head with his knee
gradually running the shears line after line round her
dewlap; thence about her flank and backand finishing over
the tail.

Well done, and done quickly!said Bathshebalooking at
her watch as the last snip resounded.

How long, miss?said Gabrielwiping his brow.

Three-and-twenty minutes and a half since you took the
first lock from its forehead. It is the first time that I
have ever seen one done in less than half an hour.


The cleansleek creature arose from its fleece -- how
perfectly like Aphrodite rising from the foam should have
been seen to be realized -- looking startled and shy at the
loss of its garmentwhich lay on the floor in one soft
cloudunited throughoutthe portion visible being the
inner surface onlywhichnever before exposedwas white
as snowand without flaw or blemish of the minutest kind.

Cain Ball!

Yes, Mister Oak; here I be!

Cainy now runs forward with the tar-pot. "B. E." is newly
stamped upon the shorn skinand away the simple dam leaps
pantingover the board into the shirtless flock outside.
Then up comes Maryann; throws the loose locks into the
middle of the fleecerolls it upand carries it into the
background as three-and-a-half pounds of unadulterated
warmth for the winter enjoyment of persons unknown and far
awaywho willhowevernever experience the superlative
comfort derivable from the wool as it here existsnew and
pure -- before the unctuousness of its nature whilst in a
living state has driedstiffenedand been washed out -rendering
it just now as superior to anything WOOLLEN as
cream is superior to milk-and-water.

But heartless circumstance could not leave entire Gabriel's
happiness of this morning. The ramsold ewesand twoshear
ewes had duly undergone their strippingand the men
were proceeding with the shear-lings and hogswhen Oak's
belief that she was going to stand pleasantly by and time
him through another performance was painfully interrupted by
Farmer Boldwood's appearance in the extremest corner of the
barn. Nobody seemed to have perceived his entrybut there
he certainly was. Boldwood always carried with him a social
atmosphere of his ownwhich everybody felt who came near
him; and the talkwhich Bathsheba's presence had somewhat
suppressedwas now totally suspended.

He crossed over towards Bathshebawho turned to greet him
with a carriage of perfect ease. He spoke to her in low
tonesand she instinctively modulated her own to the same
pitchand her voice ultimately even caught the inflection
of his. She was far from having a wish to appear
mysteriously connected with him; but woman at the
impressionable age gravitates to the larger body not only in
her choice of wordswhich is apparent every daybut even
in her shades of tone and humourwhen the influence is
great.

What they conversed about was not audible to Gabrielwho
was too independent to get nearthough too concerned to
disregard. The issue of their dialogue was the taking of
her hand by the courteous farmer to help her over the
spreading-board into the bright June sunlight outside.
Standing beside the sheep already shornthey went on
talking again. Concerning the flock? Apparently not.
Gabriel theorizednot without truththat in quiet
discussion of any matter within reach of the speakers' eyes
these are usually fixed upon it. Bathsheba demurely
regarded a contemptible straw lying upon the groundin a
way which suggested less ovine criticism than womanly
embarrassment. She became more or less red in the cheek
the blood wavering in uncertain flux and reflux over the


sensitive space between ebb and flood. Gabriel sheared on
constrained and sad.

She left Boldwood's sideand he walked up and down alone
for nearly a quarter of an hour. Then she reappeared in her
new riding-habit of myrtle-greenwhich fitted her to the
waist as a rind fits its fruit; and young Bob Coggan led on
her mareBoldwood fetching his own horse from the tree
under which it had been tied.

Oak's eyes could not forsake them; and in endeavouring to
continue his shearing at the same time that he watched
Boldwood's mannerhe snipped the sheep in the groin. The
animal plunged; Bathsheba instantly gazed towards itand
saw the blood.

Oh, Gabriel!she exclaimedwith severe remonstranceyou
who are so strict with the other men -- see what you are
doing yourself!

To an outsider there was not much to complain of in this
remark; but to Oakwho knew Bathsheba to be well aware that
she herself was the cause of the poor ewe's woundbecause
she had wounded the ewe's shearer in a -- still more vital
partit had a sting which the abiding sense of his
inferiority to both herself and Boldwood was not calculated
to heal. But a manly resolve to recognize boldly that he
had no longer a lover's interest in herhelped him
occasionally to conceal a feeling.

Bottle!he shoutedin an unmoved voice of routine. Cainy
Ball ran upthe wound was anointedand the shearing
continued.

Boldwood gently tossed Bathsheba into the saddleand before
they turned away she again spoke out to Oak with the same
dominative and tantalizing graciousness.

I am going now to see Mr. Boldwood's Leicesters. Take my
place in the barn, Gabriel, and keep the men carefully to
their work.

The horses' heads were put aboutand they trotted away.

Boldwood's deep attachment was a matter of great interest
among all around him; butafter having been pointed out for
so many years as the perfect exemplar of thriving
bachelorshiphis lapse was an anticlimax somewhat
resembling that of St. John Long's death by consumption in
the midst of his proofs that it was not a fatal disease.

That means matrimony,said Temperance Millerfollowing
them out of sight with her eyes.

I reckon that's the size o't,said Cogganworking along
without looking up.

Well, better wed over the mixen than over the moor,said
Laban Tallturning his sheep.

Henery Fray spokeexhibiting miserable eyes at the same
time: "I don't see why a maid should take a husband when
she's bold enough to fight her own battlesand don't want a
home; for 'tis keeping another woman out. But let it be


for 'tis a pity he and she should trouble two houses."


As usual with decided charactersBathsheba invariably
provoked the criticism of individuals like Henery Fray. Her
emblazoned fault was to be too pronounced in her objections
and not sufficiently overt in her likings. We learn that it
is not the rays which bodies absorbbut those which they
rejectthat give them the colours they are known by; and in
the same way people are specialized by their dislikes and
antagonismswhilst their goodwill is looked upon as no
attribute at all.


Henery continued in a more complaisant mood: "I once hinted
my mind to her on a few thingsas nearly as a battered
frame dared to do so to such a froward piece. You all know
neighbourswhat a man I beand how I come down with my
powerful words when my pride is boiling wi' scarn?"


We do, we do, Henery.


So I said, 'Mistress Everdene, there's places empty, and
there's gifted men willing; but the spite' -- no, not the
spite -- I didn't say spite -- 'but the villainy of the
contrarikind,' I said (meaning womankind), 'keeps 'em out.'
That wasn't too strong for her, say?


Passably well put.


Yes; and I would have said it, had death and salvation
overtook me for it. Such is my spirit when I have a mind.


A true man, and proud as a lucifer.


You see the artfulness? Why, 'twas about being baily
really; but I didn't put it so plain that she could
understand my meaning, so I could lay it on all the
stronger. That was my depth! ... However, let her marry an
she will. Perhaps 'tis high time. I believe Farmer
Boldwood kissed her behind the spear-bed at the sheep-
washing t'other day -- that I do.


What a lie!said Gabriel.


Ah, neighbour Oak -- how'st know?saidHenerymildly.


Because she told me all that passed,said Oakwith a
pharisaical sense that he was not as other shearers in this
matter.


Ye have a right to believe it,said Henerywith dudgeon;
a very true right. But I mid see a little distance into
things! To be long-headed enough for a baily's place is a
poor mere trifle -- yet a trifle more than nothing.
However, I look round upon life quite cool. Do you heed me,
neighbours? My words, though made as simple as I can, mid be
rather deep for some heads.


O yes, Henery, we quite heed ye.


A strange old piece, goodmen -- whirled about from here to
yonder, as if I were nothing! A little warped, too. But I
have my depths; ha, and even my great depths! I might gird
at a certain shepherd, brain to brain. But no -- O no!



A strange old piece, ye say!interposed the maltsterin a
querulous voice. "At the same time ye be no old man worth
naming -- no old man at all. Yer teeth bain't half gone
yet; and what's a old man's standing if so be his teeth
bain't gone? Weren't I stale in wedlock afore ye were out of
arms? 'Tis a poor thing to be sixtywhen there's people far
past four-score -- a boast'weak as water."

It was the unvaying custom in Weatherbury to sink minor
differences when the maltster had to be pacified.

Weak as-water! yes,said Jan Coggan. "Malterwe feel ye
to be a wonderful veteran manand nobody can gainsay it."

Nobody,said Joseph Poorgrass. "Ye be a very rare old
spectaclemalterand we all admire ye for that gift. "

Ay, and as a young man, when my senses were in prosperity,
I was likewise liked by a good-few who knowed me,said the
maltster.

'Ithout doubt you was -- 'ithout doubt.

The bent and hoary 'man was satisfiedand so apparently was
Henery Frag. That matters should continue pleasant Maryann
spokewhowhat with her brown complexionand the working
wrapper of rusty linseyhad at present the mellow hue of an
old sketch in oils -- notably some of Nicholas Poussin's: -


Do anybody know of a crooked man, or a lame, or any secondhand
fellow at all that would do for poor me?said Maryann.
A perfect one I don't expect to at my time of life. If I
could hear of such a thing twould do me more good than toast
and ale.

Coggan furnished a suitable reply. Oak went on with his
shearingand said not another word. Pestilent moods had
comeand teased away his quiet. Bathsheba had shown
indications of anointing him above his fellows by installing
him as the bailiff that the farm imperatively required. He
did not covet the post relatively to the farm: in relation
to herselfas beloved by him and unmarried to anotherhe
had coveted it. His readings of her seemed now to be
vapoury and indistinct. His lecture to her washe thought
one of the absurdest mistakes. Far from coquetting with
Boldwoodshe had trifled with himself in thus feigning that
she had trifled with another. He was inwardly convinced
thatin accordance with the anticipations of his easy-going
and worse-educated comradesthat day would see Boldwood the
accepted husband of Miss Everdene. Gabriel at this time of
his life had out-grown the instinctive dislike which every
Christian boy has for reading the Bibleperusing it now
quite frequentlyand he inwardly saidI find more bitter
than death the woman whose heart is snares and nets!This
was mere exclamation -- the froth of the storm. He adored
Bathsheba just the same.

We workfolk shall have some lordly-junketing to-night,
said Cainy Ballcasting forth his thoughts in a new
direction. "This morning I see'em making the great puddens
in the milking-pails -- lumps of fat as big as yer thumb
Mister Oak! I've never seed such splendid large
knobs of fat before in the days of my life -- they never
used to be bigger then a horse-bean. And there was a great


black crock upon the brandish with his legs a-sticking out
but I don't know what was in within."


And there's two bushels of biffins for apple-pies,said
Maryann.


Well, I hope to do my duty by it all,said Joseph
Poorgrassin a pleasantmasticating manner of
anticipation. "Yes; victuals and drink is a cheerful thing
and gives nerves to the nervelessif the form of words may
be used. 'Tis the gospel of the bodywithout which we
perishso to speak it."


CHAPTER XXIII


EVENTIDE -- A SECOND DECLARATION


FOR the shearing-supper a long table was placed on the
grass-plot beside the housethe end of the table being
thrust over the sill of the wide parlour window and a foot
or two into the room. Miss Everdene sat inside the window
facing down the table. She was thus at the head without
mingling with the men.


This evening Bathsheba was unusually excitedher red cheeks
and lips contrasting lustrously with the mazy skeins of her
shadowy hair. She seemed to expect assistanceand the seat
at the bottom of the table was at her request left vacant
until after they had begun the meal. She then asked Gabriel
to take the place and the duties appertaining to that end
which he did with great readiness.


At this moment Mr. Boldwood came in at the gateand crossed
the green to Bathsheba at the window. He apologized for his
lateness: his arrival was evidently by arrangement.


Gabriel,said shewill you move again, please, and let
Mr. Boldwood come there?


Oak moved in silence back to his original seat.


The gentleman-farmer was dressed in cheerful stylein a new
coat and white waistcoatquite contrasting with his usual
sober suits of grey. Inwardytoohe was blitheand
consequently chatty to an exceptional degree. So also was
Bathsheba now that he had comethough the uninvited
presence of Pennywaysthe bailiff who had been dismissed
for theftdisturbed her equanimity for a while.


Supper being endedCoggan began on his own private account
without reference to listeners: --


I've lost my loveand l care not
I've lost my loveand l care not;
I shall soon have another
That's better than t'other;
I've lost my loveand I care not.


This lyricwhen concludedwas received with a silently



appreciative gaze at the tableimplying that the
performancelike a work by those established authors who
are independent of notices in the paperswas a well-known
delight which required no applause.


Now, Master Poorgrass, your song!said Coggan.


I be all but in liquor, and the gift is wanting in me,
said Josephdiminishing himself.


Nonsense; wou'st never be so ungrateful, Joseph -- never!
said Cogganexpressing hurt feelings by an inflection of
voice. "And mistress is looking hard at yeas much as to
saySing at once, Joseph Poorgrass.


Faith, so she is; well, I must suffer it! ... Just eye my
features, and see if the tell-tale blood overheats me much,
neighbours?


No, yer blushes be quite reasonable,said Coggan.


I always tries to keep my colours from rising when a
beauty's eyes get fixed on me,said Josephdifferently;
but if so be 'tis willed they do, they must.


Now, Joseph, your song, please,said Bathshebafrom the
window.


Well, really, ma'am,he repliedin a yielding toneI
don't know what to say. It would be a poor plain ballet of
my own composure.


Hear, hear!said the supper-party.


Poorgrassthus assuredtrilled forth a flickering yet
commendable piece of sentimentthe tune of which consisted
of the key-note and anotherthe latter being the sound
chiefly dwelt upon. This was so successful that he rashly
plunged into a second in the same breathafter a few false
starts: --


I sow'-ed th'-e .....
I sow'-ed .....
I sow'-ed the'-e seeds' of love'


I-it was' all' i'-in the'-e spring'
I-in A'-pril'Ma'-aya'-nd sun'-ny' June'

When sma'-all bi'-irds they' do' sing.

Well put out of hand,said Cogganat the end of the
verse. 'They do sing' was a very taking paragraph."

Ay; and there was a pretty place at seeds of love." and
'twas well heaved out. Though "love" is a nasty high corner
when a man's voice is getting crazed. Next verseMaster
Poorgrass."

But during this rendering young Bob Coggan exhibited one of
those anomalies which will afflict little people when other
persons are particularly serious: in trying to check his
laughterhe pushed down his throat as much of the
tablecloth as he could get hold ofwhenafter continuing
hermetically sealed for a short timehis mirth burst out


through his nose. Joseph perceived itand with hectic
cheeks of indignation instantly ceased singing. Coggan
boxed Bob's ears immediately.

Go on, Joseph -- go on, and never mind the young scamp,
said Coggan. "'Tis a very catching ballet. Now then again
-- the next bar; I'll help ye to flourish up the shrill
notes where yer wind is rather wheezy: --

Oh the wi'-il-lo'-ow tree' will' twist'
And the wil'-low' tre'-ee wi'ill twine'.

But the singer could not be set going again. Bob Coggan was
sent home for his ill mannersand tranquility was restored
by Jacob Smallburywho volunteered a ballad as inclusive
and interminable as that with which the worthy toper old
Silenus amused on a similar occasion the swains Chromis and
Mnasylusand other jolly dogs of his day.

It was still the beaming time of eveningthough night was
stealthily making itself visible low down upon the ground
the western lines of light taking the earth without
alighting upon it to any extentor illuminating the dead
levels at all. The sun had crept round the tree as a last
effort before deathand then began to sinkthe shearers'
lower parts becoming steeped in embrowning twilightwhilst
their heads and shoulders were still enjoying daytouched
with a yellow of self-sustained brilliancy that seemed
inherent rather than acquired.

The sun went down in an ochreous mist; but they satand
talked onand grew as merry as the gods in Homer's heaven.
Bathsheba still remained enthroned inside the windowand
occupied herself in knittingfrom which she sometimes
looked up to view the fading scene outside. The slow
twilight expanded and enveloped them completely before the
signs of moving were shown.

Gabriel suddenly missed Farmer Boldwood from his place at
the bottom of the table. How long he had been gone Oak did
not know; but he had apparently withdrawn into the
encircling dusk. Whilst he was thinking of thisLiddy
brought candles into the back part of the room overlooking
the shearersand their lively new flames shone down the
table and over the menand dispersed among the green
shadows behind. Bathsheba's formstill in its original
positionwas now again distinct between their eyes and the
lightwhich revealed that Boldwood had gone inside the
roomand was sitting near her.

Next came the question of the evening. Would Miss Everdene
sing to them the song she always sang so charmingly -- "The
Banks of Allan Water" -- before they went home?

After a moment's consideration Bathsheba assentedbeckoning
to Gabrielwho hastened up into the coveted atmosphere.

Have you brought your flute?she whispered.

Yes, miss.

Play to my singing, then.


She stood up in the window-openingfacing the menthe
candles behind herGabriel on her right handimmediately
outside the sash-frame. Boldwood had drawn up on her left
within the room. Her singing was soft and rather tremulous
at firstbut it soon swelled to a steady clearness.
Subsequent events caused one of the verses to be remembered
for many monthsand even yearsby more than one of those
who were gathered there: --


For his bride a soldier sought her
And a winning tongue had he:
On the banks of Allan Water
None was gay as she!


In addition to the dulcet piping of Gabriel's flute
Boldwood supplied a bass in his customary profound voice
uttering his notes so softlyhoweveras to abstain
entirely from making anything like an ordinary duet of the
song; they rather formed a rich unexplored shadowwhich
threw her tones into relief. The shearers reclined against
each other as at suppers in the early ages of the worldand
so silent and absorbed were they that her breathing could
almost be heard between the bars; and at the end of the
balladwhen the last tone loitered on to an inexpressible
closethere arose that buzz of pleasure which is the attar
of applause.


It is scarcely necessary to state that Gabriel could not
avoid noting the farmer's bearing to-night towards their
entertainer. Yet there was nothing exceptional in his
actions beyond what appertained to his time of performing
them. It was when the rest were all looking away that
Boldwood observed her; when they regarded her he turned
aside; when they thanked or praised he was silent; when they
were inattentive he murmured his thanks. The meaning lay in
the difference between actionsnone of which had any
meaning of itself; and the necessity of being jealouswhich
lovers are troubled withdid not lead Oak to underestimate
these signs.


Bathsheba then wished them good-nightwithdrew from the
windowand retired to the back part of the roomBoldwood
thereupon closing the sash and the shuttersand remaining
inside with her. Oak wandered away under the quiet and
scented trees. Recovering from the softer impressions
produced by Bathsheba's voicethe shearers rose to leave
Coggan turning to Pennyways as he pushed back the bench to
pass out: --


I like to give praise where praise is due, and the man
deserves it -- that 'a do so,he remarkedlooking at the
worthy thiefas if he were the masterpiece of some world-
renowned artist.


I'm sure I should never have believed it if we hadn't
proved it, so to allude,hiccupped Joseph Poorgrassthat
every cup, every one of the best knives and forks, and every
empty bottle be in their place as perfect now as at the
beginning, and not one stole at all.


I'm sure I don't deserve half the praise you give me,said
the virtuous thiefgrimly.



Well, I'll say this for Pennyways,added Cogganthat
whenever he do really make up his mind to do a noble thing
in the shape of a good action, as I could see by his face he
did to-night afore sitting down, he's generally able to
carry it out. Yes, I'm proud to say. neighbours, that he's
stole nothing at all.

Well, 'tis an honest deed, and we thank ye for it,
Pennyways,said Joseph; to which opinion the remainder of
the company subscribed unanimously.

At this time of departurewhen nothing more was visible of
the inside of the parlour than a thin and still chink of
light between the shuttersa passionate scene was in course
of enactment there.

Miss Everdene and Boldwood were alone. Her cheeks had lost
a great deal of their healthful fire from the very
seriousness of her position; but her eye was bright with the
excitement of a triumph -- though it was a triumph which had
rather been contemplated than desired.

She was standing behind a low arm-chairfrom which she had
just risenand he was kneeling in it -- inclining himself
over its back towards herand holding her hand in both his
own. His body moved restlesslyand it was with what Keats
daintily calls a too happy happiness. This unwonted
abstraction by love of all dignity from a man of whom it had
ever seemed the chief componentwasin its distressing
incongruitya pain to her which quenched much of the
pleasure she derived from the proof that she was idolized.

I will try to love you,she was sayingin a trembling
voice quite unlike her usual self-confidence. "And if I can
believe in any way that I shall make you a good wife I shall
indeed be willing to marry you. ButMr. Boldwood
hesitation on so high a matter is honourable in any woman
and I don't want to give a solemn promise to-night. I would
rather ask you to wait a few weeks till I can see my
situation better.

But you have every reason to believe that THEN ----

I have every reason to hope that at the end of the five or
six weeks, between this time and harvest, that you say you
are going to be away from home, I shall be able to promise
to be your wife,she saidfirmly. "But remember this
distinctlyI don't promise yet."

It is enough I don't ask more. I can wait on those dear
words. And now, Miss Everdene, good-night!

Good-night,she saidgraciously -- almost tenderly; and
Boldwood withdrew with a serene smile.

Bathsheba knew more of him now; he had entirely bared his
heart before hereven until he had almost worn in her eyes
the sorry look of a grand bird without the feathers that
make it grand. She had been awe-struck at her past
temerityand was struggling to make amends without thinking
whether the sin quite deserved the penalty she was schooling
herself to pay. To have brought all this about her ears was
terrible; but after a while the situation was not without a


fearful joy. The facility with which even the most timid
woman sometimes acquire a relish for the dreadful when that
is amalgamated with a little triumphis marvellous.

CHAPTER XXIV

THE SAME NIGHT -- THE FIR PLANTATION

AMONG the multifarious duties which Bathsheba had
voluntarily imposed upon herself by dispensing with the
services of a bailiffwas the particular one of looking
round the homestead before going to bedto see that all was
right and safe for the night. Gabriel had almost constantly
preceded her in this tour every eveningwatching her
affairs as carefully as any specially appointed officer of
surveillance could have done; but this tender devotion was
to a great extent unknown to his mistressand as much as
was known was somewhat thanklessly received. Women are
never tired of bewailing man's fickleness in lovebut they
only seem to snub his constancy.

As watching is best done invisiblyshe usually carried a
dark lantern in her handand every now and then turned on
the light to examine nooks and corners with the coolness of
a metropolitan policeman. This coolness may have owed its
existence not so much to her fearlessness of expected danger
as to her freedom from the suspicion of any; her worst
anticipated discovery being that a horse might not be well
beddedthe fowls not all inor a door not closed.

This night the buildings were inspected as usualand she
went round to the farm paddock. Here the only sounds
disturbing the stillness were steady munchings of many
mouthsand stentorian breathings from all but invisible
nosesending in snores and puffs like the blowing of
bellows slowly. Then the munching would recommencewhen
the lively imagination might assist the eye to discern a
group of pink-white nostrilsshaped as cavernsand very
clammy and humid on their surfacesnot exactly pleasant to
the touch until one got used to them; the mouths beneath
having a great partiality for closing upon any loose end of
Bathsheba's apparel which came within reach of their
tongues. Above each of these a still keener vision
suggested a brown forehead and two staring though not
unfriendly eyesand above all a pair of whitish crescentshaped
horns like two particularly new moonsan occasional
stolid "moo!" proclaiming beyond the shade of a doubt that
these phenomena were the features and persons of Daisy
WhitefootBonny-lassJolly-OSpotTwinkle-eyeetc.
etc. -- the respectable dairy of Devon cows belonging to
Bathsheba aforesaid.

Her way back to the house was by a path through a young
plantation of tapering firswhich had been planted some
years earlier to shelter the premises from the north wind.
By reason of the density of the interwoven foliage overhead
it was gloomy there at cloudless noontidetwilight in the
eveningdark as midnight at duskand black as the ninth
plague of Egypt at midnight. To describe the spot is to
call it a vastlownaturally formed hallthe plumy
ceiling of which was supported by slender pillars of living


woodthe floor being covered with a soft dun carpet of dead
spikelets and mildewed coneswith a tuft of grass-blades
here and there.

This bit of the path was always the crux of the night's
ramblethoughbefore startingher apprehensions of danger
were not vivid enough to lead her to take a companion.
Slipping along here covertly as TimeBathsheba fancied she
could hear footsteps entering the track at the opposite end.
It was certainly a rustle of footsteps. Her own instantly
fell as gently as snowflakes. She reassured herself by a
remembrance that the path was publicand that the traveller
was probably some villager returning home; regettingat the
same timethat the meeting should be about to occur in the
darkest point of her routeeven though only just outside
her own door.

The noise approachedcame closeand a figure was
apparently on the point of gliding past her when something
tugged at her skirt and pinned it forcibly to the ground.
The instantaneous check nearly threw Bathsheba off her
balance. In recovering she struck against warm clothes and
buttons.

A rum start, upon my soul!said a masculine voicea foot
or so above her head. "Have I hurt youmate?"

No,said Bathshebaattempting to shrink a way.

We have got hitched together somehow, I think.

Yes.

Are you a woman?

Yes.

A lady, I should have said.

It doesn't matter.

I am a man.

Oh!

Bathsheba softly tugged againbut to no purpose.

Is that a dark lantern you have? I fancy so,said the man.
Yes.

If you'll allow me I'll open it, and set you free.

A hand seized the lanternthe door was openedthe rays
burst out from their prisonand Bathsheba beheld her
position with astonishment.

The man to whom she was hooked was brilliant in brass and
scarlet. He was a soldier. His sudden appearance was to
darkness what the sound of a trumpet is to silense. Gloom
the genius loci at all times hithertowas now totally
overthrownless by the lantern-light than by what the
lantern lighted. The contrast of this revelation with her
anticipations of some sinister figure in sombre garb was so
great that it had upon her the effect of a fairy


transformation.

It was immediately apparent that the military man's spur had
become entangled in the gimp which decorated the skirt of
her dress. He caught a view of her face.

I'll unfasten you in one moment, miss,he saidwith newborn
gallantry.

Oh no -- I can do it, thank you,she hastily repliedand
stooped for the performance.

The unfastening was not such a trifling affair. The rowel
of the spur had so wound itself among the gimp cords in
those few momentsthat separation was likely to be a matter
of time.

He too stoopedand the lantern standing on the ground
betwixt them threw the gleam from its open side among the
fir-tree needles and the blades of long damp grass with the
effect of a large glowworm. It radiated upwards into their
facesand sent over half the plantation gigantic shadows of
both man and womaneach dusky shape becoming distorted and
mangled upon the tree-trunks till it wasted to nothing.

He looked hard into her eyes when she raised them for a
moment; Bathsheba looked down againfor his gaze was too
strong to be received point-blank with her own. But she had
obliquely noticed that he was young and slimand that he
wore three chevrons upon his sleeve.

Bathsheba pulled again.

You are a prisoner, miss; it is no use blinking the
matter,said the soldierdrily. "I must cut your dress if
you are in such a hurry."

Yes -- please do!she exclaimedhelplessly."

It wouldn't be necessary if you could wait a moment,and
he unwound a cord from the little wheel. She withdrew her
own handbutwhether by accident or designhe touched it.
Bathsheba was vexed; she hardly knew why.

His unravelling went onbut it nevertheless seemed coming
to no end. She looked at him again.

Thank you for the sight of such a beautiful face!said the
young sergeantwithout ceremony.

She coloured with embarrassment. "'Twas un-willingly
shown she replied, stiffly, and with as much dignity -which
was very little -- as she could infuse into a position
of captivity.

I like you the better for that incivilitymiss he said.

I should have liked -- I wish -- you had never shown
yourself to me by intruding here!" She pulled againand the
gathers of her dress began to give way like liliputian
musketry.

I deserve the chastisement your words give me. But why
should such a fair and dutiful girl have such an aversion to


her father's sex?

Go on your way, please.

What, Beauty, and drag you after me? Do but look; I never
saw such a tangle!

Oh, 'tis shameful of you; you have been making it worse on
purpose to keep me here -- you have!

Indeed, I don't think so,said the sergeantwith a merry
twinkle.

I tell you you have!she exclaimedin high temper. I
insist upon undoing it. Nowallow me!"

Certainly, miss; I am not of steel.He added a sigh which
had as much archness in it as a sigh could possess without
losing its nature altogether. "I am thankful for beauty
even when 'tis thrown to me like a bone to a dog. These
moments will be over too soon!"

She closed her lips in a determined silence.

Bathsheba was revolving in her mind whether by a bold and
desperate rush she could free herself at the risk of leaving
her skirt bodily behind her. The thought was too dreadful.
The dress -- which she had put on to appear stately at the
supper -- was the head and front of her wardrobe; not
another in her stock became her so well. What woman in
Bathsheba's positionnot naturally timidand within call
of her retainerswould have bought escape from a dashing
soldier at so dear a price?

All in good time; it will soon be done, I perceive,said
her cool friend.

This trifling provokes, and -- and ----

Not too cruel!

-- Insults me!

It is done in order that I may have the pleasure of
apologizing to so charming a woman, which I straightway do
most humbly, madam,he saidbowing low.

Bathsheba really knew not what to say.

I've seen a good many women in my time,continued the
young man in a murmurand more thoughtfully than hitherto
critically regarding her bent head at the same time; "but
I've never seen a woman so beautiful as you. Take it or
leave it -- be offended or like it -- I don't care."

Who are you, then, who can so well afford to despise
opinion?

No stranger. Sergeant Troy. I am staying in this place. --
There! it is undone at last, you see. Your light fingers
were more eager than mine. I wish it had been the knot of
knots, which there's no untying!

This was worse and worse. She started upand so did he.


How to decently get away from him -- that was her difficulty
now. She sidled off inch by inchthe lantern in her hand
till she could see the redness of his coat no longer.

Ah, Beauty; good-bye!he said.

She made no replyandreaching a distance of twenty or
thirty yardsturned aboutand ran indoors.

Liddy had just retired to rest. In ascending to her own
chamberBathsheba opened the girl's door an inch or two
andpantingsaid -


Liddy, is any soldier staying in the village -- sergeant
somebody -- rather gentlemanly for a sergeant, and good
looking -- a red coat with blue facings?

No, miss ... No, I say; but really it might be Sergeant
Troy home on furlough, though I have not seen him. He was
here once in that way when the regiment was at
Casterbridge.

Yes; that's the name. Had he a moustache -- no whiskers or
beard?

He had.

What kind of a person is he?

Oh! miss -- I blush to name it -- a gay man! But I know him
to be very quick and trim, who might have made his
thousands, like a squire. Such a clever young dandy as he
is! He's a doctor's son by name, which is a great deal; and
he's an earl's son by nature!

Which is a great deal more. Fancy! Is it true?

Yes. And, he was brought up so well, and sent to
Casterbridge Grammar School for years and years. Learnt all
languages while he was there; and it was said he got on so
far that he could take down Chinese in shorthand; but that I
don't answer for, as it was only reported. However, he
wasted his gifted lot, and listed a soldier; but even then
he rose to be a sergeant without trying at all. Ah! such a
blessing it is to be high-born; nobility of blood will shine
out even in the ranks and files. And is he really come
home, miss?

I believe so. Good-night, Liddy.

After allhow could a cheerful wearer of skirts be
permanently offended with the man? There are occasions when
girls like Bathsheba will put up with a great deal of
unconventional behaviour. When they want to be praised
which is oftenwhen they want to be masteredwhich is
sometimes; and when they want no nonsensewhich is seldom.
Just now the first feeling was in the ascendant with
Bathshebawith a dash of the second. Moreoverby chance
or by devilrythe ministrant was antecedently made
interesting by being a handsome stranger who had evidently
seen better days.

So she could not clearly decide whether it was her opinion
that he had insulted her or not. "


Was ever anything so odd!she at last exclaimed to
herselfin her own room. "And was ever anything so meanly
done as what I did do to sulk away like that from a man who
was only civil and kind!" Clearly she did not think his
barefaced praise of her person an insult now.

It was a fatal omission of Boldwood's that he had never once
told her she was beautiful.

CHAPTER XXV

THE NEW ACQUAINTANCE DESCRIBED

IDIOSYNCRASY and vicissitude had combined to stamp Sergeant
Troy as an exceptional being.

He was a man to whom memories were an incumbranceand
anticipations a superfluity. Simply feelingconsidering
and caring for what was before his eyeshe was vulnerable
only in the present. His outlook upon time was as a
transient flash of the eye now and then: that projection of
consciousness into days gone by and to comewhich makes the
past a synonym for the pathetic and the future a word for
circumspectionwas foreign to Troy. With him the past was
yesterday; the futureto-morrow; neverthe day after.

On this account he mightin certain lightshave been
regarded as one of the most fortunate of his order. For it
may be argued with great plausibility that reminiscence is
less an endowment than a diseaseand that expectation in
its only comfortable form -- that of absolute faith -- is
practically an impossibility; whilst in the form of hope and
the secondary compoundspatienceimpatienceresolve
curiosityit is a constant fluctuation between pleasure and
pain.

Sergeant Troybeing entirely innocent of the practice of
expectationwas never disappointed. To set against this
negative gain there may have been some positive losses from
a certain narrowing of the higher tastes and sensations
which it entailed. But limitation of the capacity is never
recognized as a loss by the loser therefrom: in this
attribute moral or aesthetic poverty contrasts plausibly
with materialsince those who suffer do not mind itwhilst
those who mind it soon cease to suffer. It is not a denial
of anything to have been always without itand what Troy
had never enjoyed he did not miss; butbeing fully
conscious that what sober people missed he enjoyedhis
capacitythough really lessseemed greater than theirs.

He was moderately truthful towards menbut to women lied
like a Cretan -- a system of ethics above all others
calculated to win popularity at the first flush of admission
into lively society; and the possibility of the favour
gained being transitory had reference only to the future.

He never passed the line which divides the spruce vices from
the ugly; and hencethough his morals had hardly been
applaudeddisapproval of them had frequently been tempered
with a smile. This treatment had led to his becoming a sort


of regrater of other men's gallantriesto his own
aggrandizement as a Corinthianrather than to the moral
profit of his hearers.

His reason and his propensities had seldom any reciprocating
influencehaving separated by mutual consent long ago:
thence it sometimes happened thatwhile his intentions were
as honourable as could be wishedany particular deed formed
a dark background which threw them into fine relief. The
sergeant's vicious phases being the offspring of impulse
and his virtuous phases of cool meditationthe latter had a
modest tendency to be oftener heard of than seen.

Troy was full of activitybut his activities were less of a
locomotive than a vegetative nature; andnever being based
upon any original choice of foundation or directionthey
were exercised on whatever object chance might place in
their way. Hencewhilst he sometimes reached the brilliant
in speech because that was spontaneoushe fell below the
commonplace in actionfrom inability to guide incipient
effort. He had a quick comprehension and considerable force
of character; butbeing without the power to combine them
the comprehension became engaged with trivialities whilst
waiting for the will to direct itand the force wasted
itself in useless grooves through unheeding the
comprehension.

He was a fairly well-educated man for one of middle class -exceptionally
well educated for a common soldier. He spoke
fluently and unceasingly. He could in this way be one thing
and seem another: for instancehe could speak of love and
think of dinner; call on the husband to look at the wife; be
eager to pay and intend to owe.

The wondrous power of flattery in PASSADOS at woman is a
perception so universal as to be remarked upon by many
people almost as automatically as they repeat a proverbor
say that they are Christians and the likewithout thinking
much of the enormous corollaries which spring from the
proposition. Still less is it acted upon for the good of
the complemental being alluded to. With the majority such
an opinion is shelved with all those trite aphorisms which
require some catastrophe to bring their tremendous meanings
thoroughly home. When expressed with some amount of
reflectiveness it seems co-ordinate with a belief that this
flattery must be reasonable to be effective. It is to the
credit of men that few attempt to settle the question by
experimentand it is for their happinessperhapsthat
accident has never settled it for them. Neverthelessthat
a male dissembler who by deluging her with untenable
fictions charms the female wiselymay acquire powers
reaching to the extremity of perditionis a truth taught to
many by unsought and wringing occurrences. And some profess
to have attained to the same knowledge by experiment as
aforesaidand jauntily continue their indulgence in such
experiments with terrible effect. Sergeant Troy was one.

He had been known to observe casually that in dealing with
womankind the only alternative to flattery was cursing and
swearing. There was no third method. "Treat them fairly
and you are a lost man." he would say.

This person's public appearance in Weatherbury promptly
followed his arrival there. A week or two after the


shearing Bathshebafeeling a nameless relief of spirits on
account of Boldwood's absenceapproached her hayfields and
looked over the hedge towards the haymakers. They consisted
in about equal proportions of gnarled and flexuous forms
the former being the menthe latter the womenwho wore
tilt bonnets covered with nankeenwhich hung in a curtain
upon their shoulders. Coggan and Mark Clark were mowing in
a less forward meadowClark humming a tune to the strokes
of his scytheto which Jan made no attempt to keep time
with his. In the first mead they were already loading hay
the women raking it into cocks and windrowsand the men
tossing it upon the waggon.

From behind the waggon a bright scarlet spot emergedand
went on loading unconcernedly with the rest. It was the
gallant sergeantwho had come haymaking for pleasure; and
nobody could deny that he was doing the mistress of the farm
real knight-service by this voluntary contribution of his
labour at a busy time.

As soon as she had entered the field Troy saw herand
sticking his pitchfork into the ground and picking up his
crop or canehe came forward. Bathsheba blushed with halfangry
embarrassmentand adjusted her eyes as well as her
feet to the direct line of her path.

CHAPTER XXVI

SCENE ON THE VERGE OF THE HAY-MEAD

AH, Miss Everdene!said the sergeanttouching his
diminutive cap. "Little did I think it was you I was
speaking to the other night. And yetif I had reflected
the "Queen of the Corn-market" (truth is truth at any hour
of the day or nightand I heard you so named in
Casterbridge yesterday)the "Queen of the Corn-market." I
saycould be no other woman. I step across now to beg your
forgiveness a thousand times for having been led by my
feelings to express myself too strongly for a stranger. To
be sure I am no stranger to the place -- I am Sergeant Troy
as I told youand I have assisted your uncle in these
fields no end of times when I was a lad. I have been doing
the same for you today."

I suppose I must thank you for that, Sergeant Troy,said
the Queen of the Corn-marketin an indifferently grateful
tone.

The sergeant looked hurt and sad. "Indeed you must not
Miss Everdene he said. Why could you think such a thing
necessary?"

I am glad it is not.

Why? if I may ask without offence.

Because I don't much want to thank you for anything.

I am afraid I have made a hole with my tongue that my heart
will never mend. O these intolerable times: that ill-luck


should follow a man for honestly telling a woman she is
beautiful! 'Twas the most I said -- you must own that; and
the least I could say -- that I own myself.

There is some talk I could do without more easily than
money.

Indeed. That remark is a sort of digression.

No. It means that I would rather have your room than your
company.

And I would rather have curses from you than kisses from
any other woman; so I'll stay here.

Bathsheba was absolutely speechless. And yet she could not
help feeling that the assistance he was rendering forbade a
harsh repulse.

Well,continued TroyI suppose there is a praise which
is rudeness, and that may be mine. At the same time there
is a treatment which is injustice, and that may be yours.
Because a plain blunt man, who has never been taught
concealment, speaks out his mind without exactly intending
it, he's to be snapped off like the son of a sinner.

Indeed there's no such case between us,she saidturning
away. "I don't allow strangers to be bold and impudent -even
in praise of me."

Ah -- it is not the fact but the method which offends you,
he saidcarelessly. "But I have the sad satisfaction of
knowing that my wordswhether pleasing or offensiveare
unmistakably true. Would you have had me look at youand
tell my acquaintance that you are quite a common-place
womanto save you the embarrassment of being stared at if
they come near you? Not I. I couldn't tell any such
ridiculous lie about a beauty to encourage a single woman in
England in too excessive a modesty."

It is all pretence -- what you are saying!exclaimed
Bathshebalaughing in spite of herself at the sly method.
You have a rare invention, Sergeant Troy. Why couldn't you
have passed by me that night, and said nothing? -- that was
all I meant to reproach you for.

Because I wasn't going to. Half the pleasure of a feeling
lies in being able to express it on the spur of the moment,
and I let out mine. It would have been just the same if you
had been the reverse person -- ugly and old -- I should have
exclaimed about it in the same way.

How long is it since you have been so afflicted with strong
feeling, then?

Oh, ever since I was big enough to know loveliness from
deformity.

'Tis to be hoped your sense of the difference you speak of
doesn't stop at faces, but extends to morals as well.

I won't speak of morals or religion -- my own or anybody
else's. Though perhaps I should have been a very good
Christian if you pretty women hadn't made me an idolater.


Bathsheba moved on to hide the irrepressible dimplings of
merriment. Troy followedwhirling his crop.

But -- Miss Everdene -- you do forgive me?

Hardly.

Why?

You say such things.

I said you were beautiful, and I'll say so still; for, by -so
you are! The most beautiful ever I saw, or may I fall
dead this instant! Why, upon my ----

Don't -- don't! I won't listen to you -- you are so
profane!she saidin a restless state between distress at
hearing him and a PENCHANT to hear more.

I again say you are a most fascinating woman. There's
nothing remarkable in my saying so, is there? I'm sure the
fact is evident enough. Miss Everdene, my opinion may be
too forcibly let out to please you, and, for the matter of
that, too insignificant to convince you, but surely it is
honest, and why can't it be excused?

Because it -- it isn't a correct one,she femininely
murmured.

Oh, fie -- fie! Am I any worse for breaking the third of
that Terrible Ten than you for breaking the ninth?

Well, it doesn't seem QUITE true to me that I am
fascinating,she replied evasively.

Not so to you: then I say with all respect that, if so, it
is owing to your modesty, Miss Everdene. But surely you
must have been told by everybody of what everybody notices?
and you should take their words for it.

They don't say so exactly.

Oh yes, they must!

Well, I mean to my face, as you do,she went onallowing
herself to be further lured into a conversation that
intention had rigorously forbidden.

But you know they think so?

No -- that is -- I certainly have heard Liddy say they do,
but ----She paused.

Capitulation -- that was the purport of the simple reply
guarded as it was -- capitulationunknown to her-self.
Never did a fragile tailless sentence convey a more perfect
meaning. The careless sergeant smiled within himselfand
probably too the devil smiled from a loop-hole in Tophet
for the moment was the turning-point of a career. Her tone
and mien signified beyond mistake that the seed which was to
lift the foundation had taken root in the chink: the
remainder was a mere question of time and natural changes.


There the truth comes out!said the soldierin reply.
Never tell me that a young lady can live in a buzz of
admiration without knowing something about it. Ah, well,
Miss Everdene, you are -- pardon my blunt way -- you are
rather an injury to our race than other-wise.

How -- indeed?" she saidopening her eyes.

Oh, it is true enough. I may as well be hung for a sheep
as a lamb (an old country saying, not of much account, but
it will do for a rough soldier), and so I will speak my
mind, regardless of your pleasure, and without hoping or
intending to get your pardon. Why, Miss Everdene, it is in
this manner that your good looks may do more harm than good
in the world.The sergeant looked down the mead in
critical abstracion. "Probably some one man on an average
falls in lovewith each ordinary woman. She can marry him:
he is contentand leads a useful life. Such women as you a
hundred men always covet -- your eyes will bewitch scores on
scores into an unavailing fancy for you -- you can only
marry one of that many. Out of these say twenty will
endeavour to drown the bitterness of espised love in drink;
twenty more will mope away their lives without a wish or
attempt to make a mark in he worldbecause they have no
ambition apart from their attachment to you; twenty more -the
susceptible person myself possibly among them -- will be
always draggling after yougetting where they may just see
youdoing desperate things. Men are such constant fools!
The rest may try to get over their passion with more or less
success. But all these men will be saddened. And not only
those ninety-nine menbut the ninety-nine women they might
have married are saddened with them. There's my tale.
That's why I say that a woman so charming as yourselfMiss
Everdeneis hardly a blessing to her race."

The handsome sergeant's features were during this speech as
rigid and stern as John Knox's in addressing his gay young
queen.

Seeing she made no replyhe saidDo you read French?

No; I began, but when I got to the verbs, father died,she
said simply.

I do -- when I have an opportunity, which latterly has not
been often (my mother was a Parisienne) -- and there's a
proverb they have, QUI AIME BIEN CHATIE BIEN -- He chastens
who loves well." Do you understand me?

Ah!she repliedand there was even a little tremulousness
in the usually cool girl's voice; "if you can only fight
half as winningly as you can talkyou are able to make a
pleasure of a bayonet wound!" And then poor Bathsheba
instantly perceived her slip in making this admission: in
hastily trying to retrieve itshe went from bad to worse.
Don't, however, suppose that I derive any pleasure from
what you tell me.

I know you do not -- I know it perfectly,said Troywith
much hearty conviction on the exterior of his face: and
altering the expression to moodiness; "when a dozen men are
ready to speak tenderly to youand give the admiration you
deserve without adding the warning you needit stands to
reason that my poor rough-and-ready mixture of praise and


blame cannot convey much pleasure. Fool as I may beI am
not so conceited as to suppose that!"

I think you -- are conceited, nevertheless,said
Bathshebalooking askance at a reed she was fitfully
pulling with one handhaving lately grown feverish under
the soldier's system of procedure -- not because the nature
of his cajolery was entirely unperceivedbut because its
vigour was overwhelming.

I would not own it to anybody else -- nor do I exactly to
you. Still, there might have been some self-conceit in my
foolish supposition the other night. I knew that what I
said in admiration might be an opinion too often forced upon
you to give any pleasure but I certainly did think that the
kindness of your nature might prevent you judging an
uncontrolled tongue harshly -- which you have done -- and
thinking badly of me and wounding me this morning, when I am
working hard to save your hay.

Well, you need not think more of that: perhaps you did not
mean to be rude to me by speaking out your mind: indeed, I
believe you did not,said the shrewd womanin painfully
innocent earnest. "And I thank you for giving help here.
But -- but mind you don't speak to me again in that wayor
in any otherunless I speak to you."

Oh, Miss Bathsheba! That is too hard!

No, it isn't. Why is it?

You will never speak to me; for I shall not be here long.
I am soon going back again to the miserable monotony of
drill -- and perhaps our regiment will be ordered out soon.
And yet you take away the one little ewe-lamb of pleasure
that I have in this dull life of mine. Well, perhaps
generosity is not a woman's most marked characteristic.

When are you going from here?she askedwith some
interest.

In a month.

But how can it give you pleasure to speak to me?

Can you ask Miss Everdene -- knowing as you do -- what my
offence is based on?

If you do care so much for a silly trifle of that kind,
then, I don't mind doing it,she uncertainly and doubtingly
answered. "But you can't really care for a word from me?
you only say so -- I think you only say so."

That's unjust -- but I won't repeat the remark. I am too
gratified to get such a mark of your friendship at any price
to cavil at the tone. I DO Miss Everdene, care for it. You
may think a man foolish to want a mere word -- just a good
morning. Perhaps he is -- I don't know. But you have never
been a man looking upon a woman, and that woman yourself.

Well.

Then you know nothing of what such an experience is like -and
Heaven forbid that you ever should!


Nonsense, flatterer! What is it like? I am interested in
knowing.

Put shortly, it is not being able to think, hear, or look
in any direction except one without wretchedness, nor there
without torture.

Ah, sergeant, it won't do -- you are pretending!she said
shaking her head." Your words are too dashing to be true."

I am not, upon the honour of a soldier

But WHY is it so? -- Of course I ask for mere pastime.

Because you are so distracting -- and I am so distracted."

You look like it.

I am indeed.

Why, you only saw me the other night!

That makes no difference. The lightning works
instantaneously. I loved you then, at once -- as I do now.

Bathsheba surveyed him curiouslyfrom the feet upwardas
high as she liked to venture her glancewhich was not quite
so high as his eyes.

You cannot and you dont she said demurely. There is-no
such sudden feeling in people. I won't listen to you any
longer. Hear meI wish I knew what o'clock it is -- I am
going -- I have wasted too much time here already!"

The sergeant looked at his watch and told her. "What
haven't you a watchmiss?" he inquired.

I have not just at present -- I am about to get a new one.

No. You shall be given one. Yes -- you shall. A gift,
Miss Everdene -- a gift.

And before she knew what the young -- man was intendinga
heavy gold watch was in her hand.

It is an unusually good one for a man like me to possess,
he quietly said. "That watch has a history. Press the
spring and open the back."

She did so.

What do you see?

A crest and a motto.

A coronet with five points, and beneath, CEDIT AMOR REBUS -
Love yields to circumstance." It's the motto of the Earls
of Severn. That watch belonged to the last lordand was
given to my mother's husbanda medical manfor his use
till I came of agewhen it was to be given to me. It was
all the fortune that ever I inherited. That watch has
regulated imperial interests in its time -- the stately
ceremonialthe courtly assignationpompous travelsand


lordly sleeps. Now it is yours.

But, Sergeant Troy, I cannot take this -- I cannot!she
exclaimedwith round-eyed wonder. "A gold watch! What are
you doing? Don't be such a dissembler!"

The sergeant retreated to avoid receiving back his gift
which she held out persistently towards him. Bathsheba
followed as he retired.

Keep it -- do, Miss Everdene -- keep it!said the erratic
child of impulse. "The fact of your possessing it makes it
worth ten times as much to me. A more plebeian one will
answer my purpose just as welland the pleasure of knowing
whose heart my old one beats against -- wellI won't speak
of that. It is in far worthier hands than ever it has been
in before."

But indeed I can't have it!she saidin a perfect simmer
of distress. "Ohhow can you do such a thing; that is if
you really mean it! Give me your dead father's watchand
such a valuable one! You should not be so recklessindeed
Sergeant Troy!"

I loved my father: good; but better, I love you more.
That's how I can do it,said the sergeantwith an
intonation of such exquisite fidelity to nature that it was
evidently not all acted now. Her beautywhichwhilst it
had been quiescenthe had praised in jesthad in its
animated phases moved him to earnest; and though his
seriousness was less than she imaginedit was probably more
than he imagined himself.

Bathsheba was brimming with agitated bewildermentand she
saidin half-suspicious accents of feelingCan it be! Oh,
how can it be, that you care for me, and so suddenly! You
have seen so little of me: I may not be really so -- so
nice-looking as I seem to you. Please, do take it; Oh, do!
I cannot and will not have it. Believe me, your generosity
is too great. I have never done you a single kindness, and
why should you be so kind to me?

A factitious reply had been again upon his lipsbut it was
again suspendedand he looked at her with an arrested eye.
The truth wasthat as she now stood -- excitedwildand
honest as the day -- her alluring beauty bore out so fully
the epithets he had bestowed upon it that he was quite
startled at his temerity in advancing them as false. He
said mechanicallyAh, why?and continued to look at her.

And my workfolk see me following you about the field, and
are wondering. Oh, this is dreadful!she went on
unconscious of the transmutation she was effecting.

I did not quite mean you to accept it at first, for it was
my one poor patent of nobility,he broke outbluntly;
but, upon my soul, I wish you would now. Without any
shamming, come! Don't deny me the happiness of wearing it
for my sake? But you are too lovely even to care to be kind
as others are.

No, no; don't say so! I have reasons for reserve which I
cannot explain.


Let it be, then, let it be,he saidreceiving back the
watch at last; "I must be leaving you now. And will you
speak to me for these few weeks of my stay?"

Indeed I will. Yet, I don't know if I will! Oh, why did
you come and disturb me so!

Perhaps in setting a gin, I have caught myself. Such
things have happened. Well, will you let me work in your
fields?he coaxed.

Yes, I suppose so; if it is any pleasure to you.

Miss Everdene, I thank you.

No, no.

Good-bye!

The sergeant brought his hand to the cap on the slope of his
headsalutedand returned to the distant group of
haymakers.

Bathsheba could not face the haymakers now. Her heart
erratically flitting hither and thither from perplexed
excitementhotand almost tearfulshe retreated homeward
murmuringOhwhat have I done! What does it mean! I wish I
knew how much of it was true!

CHAPTER XXVII

HIVING THE BEES

THE Weatherbury bees were late in their swarming this year.
It was in the latter part of Juneand the day after the
interview with Troy in the hayfieldthat Bathsheba was
standing in her gardenwatching a swarm in the air and
guessing their probable settling place. Not only were they
late this yearbut unruly. Sometimes throughout a whole
season all the swarms would alight on the lowest attainable
bough -- such as part of a currant-bush or espalier appletree;
next year they wouldwith just the same unanimity
make straight off to the uppermost member of some tall
gaunt costardor quarrendenand there defy all invaders
who did not come armed with ladders and staves to take them.

This was the case at present. Bathsheba's eyesshaded by
one handwere following the ascending multitude against the
unexplorable stretch of blue till they ultimately halted by
one of the unwieldy trees spoken of. A process somewhat
analogous to that of alleged formations of the universe
time and times agowas observable. The bustling swarm had
swept the sky in a scattered and uniform hazewhich now
thickened to a nebulous centre: this glided on to a bough
and grew still densertill it formed a solid black spot
upon the light.

The men and women being all busily engaged in saving the hay
-- even Liddy had left the house for the purpose of lending
a hand -- Bathsheba resolved to hive the bees herselfif
possible. She had dressed the hive with herbs and honey


fetched a ladderbrushand crookmade herself impregnable
with armour of leather glovesstraw hatand large gauze
veil -- once green but now faded to snuff colour -- and
ascended a dozen rungs of the ladder. At once she heard
not ten yards offa voice that was beginning to have a
strange power in agitating her.

Miss Everdene, let me assist you; you should not attempt
such a thing alone.

Troy was just opening the garden gate.

Bathsheba flung down the brushcrookand empty hive
pulled the skirt of her dress tightly round her ankles in a
tremendous flurryand as well as she could slid down the
ladder. By the time she reached the bottom Troy was there
alsoand he stooped to pick up the hive.

How fortunate I am to have dropped in at this moment!
exclaimed the sergeant.

She found her voice in a minute. "What! and will you shake
them in for me?" she askedin whatfor a defiant girlwas
a faltering way; thoughfor a timid girlit would have
seemed a brave way enough.

Will I!said Troy. "Whyof course I will. How blooming
you are to-day!" Troy flung down his cane and put his foot
on the ladder to ascend.

But you must have on the veil and gloves, or you'll be
stung fearfully!

Ah, yes. I must put on the veil and gloves. Will you
kindly show me how to fix them properly?

And you must have the broad-brimmed hat, too, for your cap
has no brim to keep the veil off, and they'd reach your
face.

The broad-brimmed hat, too, by all means.

So a whimsical fate ordered that her hat should be taken off
-- veil and all attached -- and placed upon his headTroy
tossing his own into a gooseberry bush. Then the veil had
to be tied at its lower edge round his collar and the gloves
put on him.

He looked such an extraordinary object in this guise that
flurried as she wasshe could not avoid laughing outright.
It was the removal of yet another stake from the palisade of
cold manners which had kept him off.

Bathsheba looked on from the ground whilst he was busy
sweeping and shaking the bees from the treeholding up the
hive with the other hand for them to fall into. She made
use of an unobserved minute whilst his attention was
absorbed in the operation to arrange her plumes a little.
He came down holding the hive at arm's lengthbehind which
trailed a cloud of bees.

Upon my life,said Troythrough the veilholding up
this hive makes one's arm ache worse than a week of swordexercise.
When the manoeuvre was complete he approached


her. "Would you be good enough to untie me and let me out?
I am nearly stifled inside this silk cage."

To hide her embarrassment during the unwonted process of
untying the string about his neckshe said: -


I have never seen that you spoke of.

What?

The sword-exercise.

Ah! would you like to?said Troy.

Bathsheba hesitated. She had heard wondrous reports from
time to time by dwellers in Weatherburywho had by chance
sojourned awhile in Casterbridgenear the barracksof this
strange and glorious performancethe sword-exercise. Men
and boys who had peeped through chinks or over walls into
the barrack-yard returned with accounts of its being the
most flashing affair conceivable; accoutrements and weapons
glistening like stars -- heretherearound -- yet all by
rule and compass. So she said mildly what she felt
strongly.

Yes; I should like to see it very much.

And so you shall; you shall see me go through it.

No! How?

Let me consider.

Not with a walking-stick -- I don't care to see that. It
must be a real sword.

Yes, I know; and I have no sword here; but I think I could
get one by the evening. Now, will you do this?

Troy bent over her and murmured some suggestion in a low
voice.

Oh no, indeed!said Bathshebablushing." Thank you very
muchbut I couldn't on any account.

Surely you might? Nobody would know.

She shook her headbut with a weakened negation. "If I
were to she said, I must bring Liddy too. Might I not?"

Troy looked far away. "I don't see why you want to bring
her he said coldly.

An unconscious look of assent in Bathsheba's eyes betrayed
that something more than his coldness had made her also feel
that Liddy Would be superfluous in the suggested scene. She
had felt it, even whilst making the proposal.

WellI won't bring Liddy -- and I'll come. But only for a
very short time she added; a very short time."

It will not take five minutes,said Troy.


CHAPTER XXVIII

THE HOLLOW AMID THE FERNS

THE hill opposite Bathsheba's dwelling extendeda mile off
into an uncultivated tract of landdotted at this season
with tall thickets of brake fernplump and diaphanous from
recent rapid growthand radiant in hues of clear and
untainted green.

At eight o'clock this midsummer eveningwhilst the
bristling ball of gold in the west still swept the tips of
the ferns with its longluxuriant raysa soft brushing-by
of garments might have been heard among themand Bathsheba
appeared in their midsttheir softfeathery arms caressing
her up to her shoulders. She pausedturnedwent back over
the hill and half-way to her own doorwhence she cast a
farewell glance upon the spot she had just lefthaving
resolved not to remain near the place after all.

She saw a dim spot of artificial red moving round the
shoulder of the rise. It disappeared on the other side.

She waited one minute -- two minutes -- thought of Troy's
disappointment at her non-fulfilment of a promised
engagementtill she again ran along the fieldclambered
over the bankand followed the original direction. She was
now literally trembling and panting at this her temerity in
such an errant undertaking; her breath came and went
quicklyand her eyes shone with an in-frequent light. Yet
go she must. She reached the verge of a pit in the middle
of the ferns. Troy stood in the bottomlooking up towards
her.

I heard you rustling through the fern before I saw you,he
saidcoming up and giving her his hand to help her down the
slope.

The pit was a saucer-shaped concavenaturally formedwith
a top diameter of about thirty feetand shallow enough to
allow the sunshine to reach their heads. Standing in the
centrethe sky overhead was met by a circular horizon of
fern: this grew nearly to the bottom of the slope and then
abruptly ceased. The middle within the belt of verdure was
floored with a thick flossy carpet of moss and grass
intermingledso yielding that the foot was half-buried
within it.

Now,said Troyproducing the swordwhichas he raised
it into the sunlightgleamed a sort of greetinglike a
living thingfirst, we have four right and four left cuts;
four right and four left thrusts. Infantry cuts and guards
are more interesting than ours, to my mind; but they are not
so swashing. They have seven cuts and three thrusts. So
much as a preliminary. Well, next, our cut one is as if you
were sowing your corn -- so.Bathsheba saw a sort of
rainbowupside down in the airand Troy's arm was still
again. "Cut twoas if you were hedging -- so. Threeas
if you were reaping -- so. Fouras if you were threshing -in
that way. Then the same on the left. The thrusts are
these: onetwothreefourright; onetwothreefour
left." He repeated them. "Have 'em again?" he said. "One


two ----"

She hurriedly interrupted: "I'd rather not; though I don't
mind your twos and fours; but your ones and threes are
terrible!"

Very well. I'll let you off the ones and threes. Next,
cuts, points and guards altogether,Troy duly exhibited
them. "Then there's pursuing practicein this way." He
gave the movements as before. "Therethose are the
stereotyped forms. The infantry have two most diabolical
upward cutswhich we are too humane to use. Like this -three
four."

How murderous and bloodthirsty!

They are rather deathy. Now I'll be more interesting, and
let you see some loose play -- giving all the cuts and
points, infantry and cavalry, quicker than lightning, and as
promiscuously -- with just enough rule to regulate instinct
and yet not to fetter it. You are my antagonist, with this
difference from real warfare, that I shall miss you every
time by one hair's breadth, or perhaps two. Mind you don't
flinch, whatever you do.

I'll be sure not to!" she said invincibly.

He pointed to about a yard in front of him.

Bathsheba's adventurous spirit was beginning to find some
grains of relish in these highly novel proceedings. She
took up her position as directedfacing Troy.

Now just to learn whether you have pluck enough to let me
do what I wish, I'll give you a preliminary test.

He flourished the sword by way of introduction number two
and the next thing of which she was conscious was that the
point and blade of the sword were darting with a gleam
towards her left sidejust above her hip; then of their
reappearance on her right sideemerging as it were from
between her ribshaving apparently passed through her body.
The third item of consciousness was that of seeing the same
swordperfectly clean and free from blood held vertically
in Troy's hand (in the position technically called "recover
swords"). All was as quick as electricity.

Oh!she cried out in affrightpressing her hand to her
side." Have you run me through? -- noyou have not!
Whatever have you done!"

I have not touched you,said Troyquietly. "It was mere
sleight of hand. The sword passed behind you. Now you are
not afraidare you? Because if you are l can't perform. I
give my word that l will not only not hurt youbut not once
touch you."

I don't think I am afraid. You are quite sure you will not
hurt me?

Quite sure.

Is the Sword very sharp?


O no -- only stand as still as a statue. Now!

In an instant the atmosphere was transformed to Bathsheba's
eyes. Beams of light caught from the low sun's raysabove
aroundin front of herwell-nigh shut out earth and heaven
-- all emitted in the marvellous evolutions of Troy's
reflecting bladewhich seemed everywhere at onceand yet
nowhere specially. These circling gleams were accompanied
by a keen rush that was almost a whistling -- also springing
from all sides of her at once. In shortshe was enclosed
in a firmament of lightand of sharp hissesresembling a
sky-full of meteors close at hand.

Never since the broadsword became the national weapon had
there been more dexterity shown in its management than by
the hands of Sergeant Troyand never had he been in such
splendid temper for the performance as now in the evening
sunshine among the ferns with Bathsheba. It may safely be
asserted with respect to the closeness of his cutsthat had
it been possible for the edge of the sword to leave in the
air a permanent substance wherever it flew pastthe space
left untouched would have been almost a mould of Bathsheba's
figure.

Behind the luminous streams of this AURORA MILITARISshe
could see the hue of Troy's sword armspread in a scarlet
haze over the space covered by its motionslike a twanged
harpstringand behind all Troy himselfmostly facing her;
sometimesto show the rear cutshalf turned awayhis eye
nevertheless always keenly measuring her breadth and
outlineand his lips tightly closed in sustained effort.
Nexthis movements lapsed slowerand she could see them
individually. The hissing of the sword had ceasedand he
stopped entirely.

That outer loose lock of hair wants tidying, he said,
before she had moved or spoken. Wait: I'll do it for you."

An arc of silver shone on her right side: the sword had
descended. The lock droped to the ground.

Bravely borne!said Troy. "You didn't flinch a shade's
thickness. Wonderful in a woman!"

It was because I didn't expect it. Oh, you have spoilt my
hair!

Only once more.

No -- no! I am afraid of you -- indeed I am!she cried.

I won't touch you at all -- not even your hair. I am only
going to kill that caterpillar settling on you. Now:
still!

It appeared that a caterpillar had come from the fern and
chosen the front of her bodice as his resting place. She
saw the point glisten towards her bosomand seemingly enter
it. Bathsheba closed her eyes in the full persuasion that
she was killed at last. Howeverfeeling just as usualshe
opened them again.

There it is, look,said the sargeantholding his sword
before her eyes.


The caterpillar was spitted upon its point.

Why, it is magic!said Bathshebaamazed.

Oh no -- dexterity. I merely gave point to your bosom
where the caterpillar was, and instead of running you
through checked the extension a thousandth of an inch short
of your surface.

But how could you chop off a curl of my hair with a sword
that has no edge?

No edge! This sword will shave like a razor. Look here.

He touched the palm of his hand with the bladeand then
lifting itshowed her a thin shaving of scarf-skin dangling
therefrom.

But you said before beginning that it was blunt and
couldn't cut me!

That was to get you to stand still, and so make sure of
your safety. The risk of injuring you through your moving
was too great not to force me to tell you a fib to escape
it.

She shuddered. "I have been within an inch of my lifeand
didn't know it!"

More precisely speaking, you have been within half an inch
of being pared alive two hundred and ninety-five times.

Cruel, cruel, 'tis of you!

You have been perfectly safe, nevertheless. My sword never
errs.And Troy returned the weapon to the scabbard.

Bathshebaovercome by a hundred tumultuous feelings
resulting from the sceneabstractedly sat down on a tuft of
heather.

I must leave you now,said Troysoftly. "And I'll
venture to take and keep this in remembrance of you."

She saw him stoop to the grasspick up the winding lock
which he had severed from her manifold tressestwist it
round his fingersunfasten a button in the breast of his
coatand carefully put it inside. She felt powerless to
withstand or deny him. He was altogether too much for her
and Bathsheba seemed as one whofacing a reviving wind
finds it blow so strongly that it stops the breath. He
drew near and saidI must be leaving you.

He drew nearer still. A minute later and she saw his
scarlet form disappear amid the ferny thicketalmost in a
flashlike a brand swiftly waved.

That minute's interval had brought the blood beating into
her faceset her stinging as if aflame to the very hollows
of her feetand enlarged emotion to a compass which quite
swamped thought. It had brought upon her a stroke
resultingas did that of Moses in Horebin a liquid stream
-- here a stream of tears. She felt like one who has sinned


a great sin.

The circumstance had been the gentle dip of Troy's mouth
downwards upon her own. He had kissed her.

CHAPTER XXIX

PARTICULARS OF A TWILIGHT WALK

WE now see the element of folly distinctly mingling with the
many varying particulars which made up the character of
Bathsheba Everdene. It was almost foreign to her intrinsic
nature. Introduced as lymph on the dart of Erosit
eventually permeated and coloured her whole constitution.
Bathshebathough she had too much understanding to be
entirely governed by her womanlinesshad too much
womanliness to use her understanding to the best advantage.
Perhaps in no minor point does woman astonish her helpmate
more than in the strange power she possesses of believing
cajoleries that she knows to be false -- exceptindeedin
that of being utterly sceptical on strictures that she knows
to be true.

Bathsheba loved Troy in the way that only self-reliant women
love when they abandon their self-reliance. When a strong
woman recklessly throws away her strength she is worse than
a weak woman who has never had any strength to throw away.
One source of her inadequacy is the novelty of the occasion.
She has never had practice in making the best of such a
condition. Weakness is doubly weak by being new.

Bathsheba was not conscious of guile in this matter. Though
in one sense a woman of the worldit wasafter allthat
world of daylight coteries and green carpets wherein cattle
form the passing crowd and winds the busy hum; where a quiet
family of rabbits or hares lives on the other side of your
party-wallwhere your neighbour is everybody in the
tythingand where calculation is confined to market-days.
Of the fabricated tastes of good fashionable society she
knew but littleand of the formulated self-indulgence of
badnothing at all. Had her utmost thoughts in this
direction been distinctly worded (and by herself they never
were)they would only have amounted to such a matter as
that she felt her impulses to be pleasanter guides than her
discretion. Her love was entire as a child'sand though
warm as summer it was fresh as spring. Her culpability lay
in her making no attempt to control feeling by subtle and
careful inquiry into consciences. She could show others the
steep and thorny waybut "reck'd not her own rede."

And Troy's deformities lay deep down from a woman's vision
whilst his embellishments were upon the very surface; thus
contrasting with homely Oakwhose defects were patent to
the blindestand whose virtues were as metals in a mine.

The difference between love and respect was markedly shown
in her conduct. Bathsheba had spoken of her interest in
Boldwood with the greatest freedom to Liddybut she had
only communed with her own heart concerning Troy.

All this infatuation Gabriel sawand was troubled thereby


from the time of his daily journey a-field to the time of
his returnand on to the small hours of many a night. That
he was not beloved had hitherto been his great sorrow; that
Bathsheba was getting into the toils was now a sorrow
greater than the firstand one which nearly obscured it.
It was a result which paralleled the oft-quoted observation
of Hippocrates concerning physical pains.

That is a noble though perhaps an unpromising love which not
even the fear of breeding aversion in the bosom of the one
beloved can deter from combating his or her errors. Oak
determined to speak to his mistress. He would base his
appeal on what he considered her unfair treatment of Farmer
Boldwoodnow absent from home.

An opportunity occurred one evening when she had gone for a
short walk by a path through the neighbouring cornfields.
It was dusk when Oakwho had not been far a-field that day
took the same path and met her returningquite pensively
as he thought.

The wheat was now talland the path was narrow; thus the
way was quite a sunken groove between the embowing thicket
on either side. Two persons could not walk abreast without
damaging the cropand Oak stood aside to let her pass.

Oh, is it Gabriel?she said. "You are taking a walk too.
Good-night."

I thought I would come to meet you, as it is rather late,
said Oakturning and following at her heels when she had
brushed somewhat quickly by him.

Thank you, indeed, but I am not very fearful.

Oh no; but there are bad characters about.

I never meet them.

Now Oakwith marvellous ingenuityhad been going to
introduce the gallant sergeant through the channel of "bad
characters." But all at once the scheme broke downit
suddenly occurring to him that this was rather a clumsy way
and too barefaced to begin with. He tried another preamble.

And as the man who would naturally come to meet you is away
from home, too -- I mean Farmer Boldwood -- why, thinks I,
I'll go,he said.

Ah, yes.She walked on without turning her headand for
many steps nothing further was heard from her quarter than
the rustle of her dress against the heavy corn-ears. Then
she resumed rather tartly -


I don't quite understand what you meant by saying that Mr.
Boldwood would naturally come to meet me.

I meant on account of the wedding which they say is likely
to take place between you and himmiss. Forgive my
speaking plainly."

They say what is not true.she returned quickly. No
marriage is likely to take place between us."


Gabriel now put forth his unobscured opinionfor the moment
had come. "WellMiss Everdene he said, putting aside
what people sayI never in my life saw any courting if his
is not a courting of you."

Bathsheba would probably have terminated the conversation
there and then by flatly forbidding the subjecthad not her
conscious weakness of position allured her to palter and
argue in endeavours to better it.

Since this subject has been mentioned,she said very
emphaticallyI am glad of the opportunity of clearing up a
mistake which is very common and very provoking. I didn't
definitely promise Mr. Boldwood anything. I have never
cared for him. I respect him, and he has urged me to marry
him. But I have given him no distinct answer. As soon as
he returns I shall do so; and the answer will be that I
cannot think of marrying him.

People are full of mistakes, seemingly.

They are.

The other day they said you were trifling with himand you
almost proved that you were not; lately they have said that
you be notand you straightway begin to show ----"

That I am, I suppose you mean.

Well, I hope they speak the truth.

They do, but wrongly applied. I don't trifle with him; but
then, I have nothing to do with him.

Oak was unfortunately led on to speak of Boldwood's rival in
a wrong tone to her after all. "I wish you had never met
that young Sergeant Troymiss he sighed.

Bathsheba's steps became faintly spasmodic. Why?" she
asked.

He is not good enough for 'ee.

Did any one tell you to speak to me like this?

Nobody at all.

Then it appears to me that Sergeant Troy does not concern
us here,she saidintractably." Yet I must say that
Sergeant Troy is an educated manand quite worthy of any
woman. He is well born."

His being higher in learning and birth than the ruck o'
soldiers is anything but a proof of his worth. It show's
his course to be down'ard.

I cannot see what this has to do with our conversation.
Mr. Troy's course is not by any means downward; and his
superiority IS a proof of his worth!

I believe him to have no conscience at all. And I cannot
help begging you, miss, to have nothing to do with him.
Listen to me this once -- only this once! I don't say he's
such a bad man as I have fancied -- I pray to God he is not.


But since we don't exactly know what he is, why not behave
as if he MIGHT be bad, simply for your own safety? Don't
trust him, mistress; I ask you not to trust him so.

Why, pray?

I like soldiers, but this one I do not like,he said
sturdily. "His cleverness in his calling may have tempted
him astrayand what is mirth to the neighbours is ruin to
the woman. When he tries to talk to 'ee againwhy not turn
away with a short "Good day"; and when you see him coming
one wayturn the other. When he says anything laughable
fail to see the point and don't smileand speak of him
before those who will report your talk as "that fantastical
man or that Sergeant What's-his-name." "That man of a
family that has come to the dogs." Don't be unmannerly
towards enbut harmless-unciviland so get rid of the
man."

No Christmas robin detained by a window-pane ever pulsed as
did Bathsheba now.

I say -- I say again -- that it doesn't become you to talk
about him. Why he should be mentioned passes me quite!she
exclaimed desperately. "I know thisth-th-that he is a
thoroughly conscientious man -- blunt sometimes even to
rudeness -- but always speaking his mind about you plain to
your face!"

Oh.

He is as good as anybody in this parish! He is very
particular, too, about going to church -- yes, he is!

I am afeard nobody saw him there. I never did, certainly.

The reason of that is,she said eagerlythat he goes in
privately by the old tower door, just when the service
commences, and sits at the back of the gallery. He told me
so.

This supreme instance of Troy's goodness fell upon Gabriel
ears like the thirteenth stroke of crazy clock. It was not
only received with utter incredulity as regarded itselfbut
threw a doubt on all the assurances that had preceded it.

Oak was grieved to find how entirely she trusted him. He
brimmed with deep feeling as he replied in a steady voice
the steadiness of which was spoilt by the palpableness of
his great effort to keep it so: -


You know, mistress, that I love you, and shall love you
always. I only mention this to bring to your mind that at
any rate I would wish to do you no harm: beyond that I put
it aside. I have lost in the race for money and good
things, and I am not such a fool as to pretend to 'ee now I
am poor, and you have got altogether above me. But
Bathsheba, dear mistress, this I beg you to consider -that,
both to keep yourself well honoured among the
workfolk, and in common generosity to an honourable man who
loves you as well as I, you should be more discreet in your
bearing towards this soldier.

Don't, don't, don't!she exclaimedin a choking voice.


Are ye not more to me than my own affairs, and even life!
he went on. "Comelisten to me! I am six years older than
youand Mr. Boldwood is ten years older than Iand
consider -- I do beg of 'ee to consider before it is too
late -- how safe you would be in his hands!"

Oak's allusion to his own love for her lessenedto some
extenther anger at his interference; but she could not
really forgive him for letting his wish to marry her be
eclipsed by his wish to do her goodany more than for his
slighting treatment of Troy.

I wish you to go elsewhere,she commandeda paleness of
face invisible to the eye being suggested by the trembling
words. "Do not remain on this farm any longer. I don't
want you -- I beg you to go!"

That's nonsense,said Oakcalmly. "This is the second
time you have pretended to dismiss me; and what's the use o'
it?"

Pretended! You shall go, sir -- your lecturing I will not
hear! I am mistress here.

Go, indeed -- what folly will you say next? Treating me
like Dick, Tom and Harry when you know that a short time ago
my position was as good as yours! Upon my life, Bathsheba,
it is too barefaced. You know, too, that I can't go without
putting things in such a strait as you wouldn't get out of I
can't tell when. Unless, indeed, you'll promise to have an
understanding man as bailiff, or manager, or something.
I'll go at once if you'll promise that.

I shall have no bailiff; I shall continue to be my own
manager,she said decisively.

Very well, then; you should be thankful to me for biding.
How would the farm go on with nobody to mind it but a woman?
But mind this, I don't wish 'ee to feel you owe me anything.
Not I. What I do, I do. Sometimes I say I should be as
glad as a bird to leave the place -- for don't suppose I'm
content to be a nobody. I was made for better things.
However, I don't like to see your concerns going to ruin, as
they must if you keep in this mind.... I hate taking my own
measure so plain, but, upon my life, your provoking ways
make a man say what he wouldn't dream of at other times! I
own to being rather interfering. But you know well enough
how it is, and who she is that I like too well, and feel too
much like a fool about to be civil to her!

It is more than probable that she privately and
unconsciously respected him a little for this grim fidelity
which had been shown in his tone even more than in his
words. At any rate she murmured something to the effect
that he might stay if he wished. She said more distinctly
Will you leave me alone now? I don't order it as a mistress
-- I ask it as a woman, and I expect you not to be so
uncourteous as to refuse.

Certainly I will, Miss Everdene,said Gabrielgently. He
wondered that the request should have come at this moment
for the strife was overand they were on a most desolate
hillfar from every human habitationand the hour was


getting late. He stood still and allowed her to get far
ahead of him till he could only see her form upon the sky.

A distressing explanation of this anxiety to be rid of him
at that point now ensued. A figure apparently rose from the
earth beside her. The shape beyond all doubt was Troy's.
Oak would not be even a possible listenerand at once
turned back till a good two hundred yards were between the
lovers and himself.

Gabriel went home by way of the churchyard. In passing the
tower he thought of what she had said about the sergeant's
virtuous habit of entering the church unperceived at the
beginning of service. Believing that the little gallery
door alluded to was quite disusedhe ascended the external
flight of steps at the top of which it stoodand examined
it. The pale lustre yet hanging in the north-western heaven
was sufficient to show that a sprig of ivy had grown from
the wall across the door to a length of more than a foot
delicately tying the panel to the stone jamb. It was a
decisive proof that the door had not been opened at least
since Troy came back to Weatherbury.

CHAPTER XXX

HOT CHEEKS AND TEARFUL EYES

HALF an hour later Bathsheba entered her own house. There
burnt upon her face when she met the light of the candles
the flush and excitement which were little less than chronic
with her now. The farewell words of Troywho had
accompanied her to the very doorstill lingered in her
ears. He had bidden her adieu for two dayswhich were so
he statedto be spent at Bath in visiting some friends. He
had also kissed her a second time.

It is only fair to Bathsheba to explain here a little fact
which did not come to light till a long time afterwards:
that Troy's presentation of himself so aptly at the roadside
this evening was not by any distinctly preconcerted
arrangement. He had hinted -- she had forbidden; and it was
only on the chance of his still coming that she had
dismissed Oakfearing a meeting between them just then.

She now sank down into a chairwild and perturbed by all
these new and fevering sequences. Then she jumped up with a
manner of decisionand fetched her desk from a side table.

In three minuteswithout pause or modificationshe had
written a letter to Boldwoodat his address beyond
Casterbridgesaying mildly but firmly that she had well
considered the whole subject he had brought before her and
kindly given her time to decide upon; that her final
decision was that she could not marry him. She had
expressed to Oak an intention to wait till Boldwood came
home before communicating to him her conclusive reply. But
Bathsheba found that she could not wait.

It was impossible to send this letter till the next day; yet
to quell her uneasiness by getting it out of her handsand
soas it weresetting the act in motion at onceshe arose


to take it to any one of the women who might be in the
kitchen.

She paused in the passage. A dialogue was going on in the
kitchenand Bathsheba and Troy were the subject of it.

If he marry her, she'll gie up farming.

'Twill be a gallant life, but may bring some trouble
between the mirth -- so say I.

Well, I wish I had half such a husband.

Bathsheba had too much sense to mind seriously what her
servitors said about her; but too much womanly redundance of
speech to leave alone what was said till it died the natural
death of unminded things. She burst in upon them.

Who are you speaking of?she asked.

There was a pause before anybody replied. At last Liddy
said franklyWhat was passing was a bit of a word about
yourself, miss.

I thought so! Maryann and Liddy and Temperance -- now I
forbid you to suppose such things. You know I don't care
the least for Mr. Troy -- not I. Everybody knows how much
I hate him. -- Yes,repeated the froward young person
HATE him!

We know you do, miss,said Liddy; "and so do we all."

I hate him too,said Maryann.

Maryann -- Oh you perjured woman! How can you speak that
wicked story!said Bathshebaexcitedly. "You admired him
from your heart only this morning in the very worldyou
did. YesMaryannyou know it!"

Yes, miss, but so did you. He is a wild scamp now, and you
are right to hate him.

He's NOT a wild scamp! How dare you to my face! I have no
right to hate him, nor you, nor anybody. But I am a silly
woman! What is it to me what he is? You know it is
nothing. I don't care for him; I don't mean to defend his
good name, not I. Mind this, if any of you say a word
against him you'll be dismissed instantly!

She flung down the letter and surged back into the parlour
with a big heart and tearful eyesLiddy following her.

Oh miss!said mild Liddylooking pitifully into
Bathsheba's face. "I am sorry we mistook you so! I did
think you cared for him; but I see you don't now."

Shut the door, Liddy.

Liddy closed the doorand went on: "People always say such
foolerymiss. I'll make answer hencefor'ard'Of course a
lady like Miss Everdene can't love him'; I'll say it out in
plain black and white."

Bathsheba burst out: "O Liddyare you such a simpleton?


Can't you read riddles? Can't you see? Are you a woman
yourself?"

Liddy's clear eyes rounded with wonderment.

Yes; you must be a blind thing, Liddy!she saidin
reckless abandonment and grief. "OhI love him to very
distraction and misery and agony! Don't be frightened at
methough perhaps I am enough to frighten any innocent
woman. Come closer -- closer." She put her arms round
Liddy's neck. "I must let it out to somebody; it is wearing
me away! Don't you yet know enough of me to see through
that miserable denial of mine? O Godwhat a lie it was!
Heaven and my Love forgive me. And don't you know that a
woman who loves at all thinks nothing of perjury when it is
balanced against her love? Therego out of the room; I
want to be quite alone."

Liddy went towards the door.

Liddy, come here. Solemnly swear to me that he's not a
fast man; that it is all lies they say about him!

But, miss, how can I say he is not if ----

You graceless girl! How can you have the cruel heart to
repeat what they say? Unfeeling thing that you are.... But
I'LL see if you or anybody else in the village, or town
either, dare do such a thing!She started offpacing from
fireplace to doorand back again.

No, miss. I don't -- I know it is not true!said Liddy
frightened at Bathsheba's unwonted vehemence.

I suppose you only agree with me like that to please me.
ButLiddyhe CANNOT BE hadas is said. Do you hear?"

Yes, miss, yes.

And you don't believe he is?

I don't know what to say, miss,said Liddybeginning to
cry. "If I say Noyou don't believe me; and if I say Yes
you rage at me!"

Say you don't believe it -- say you don't!

I don't believe him to be so had as they make out.

He is not had at all.... My poor life and heart, how weak
I am!she moanedin a relaxeddesultory wayheedless of
Liddy's presence. "Ohhow I wish I had never seen him!
Loving is misery for women always. I shall never forgive
God for making me a womanand dearly am I beginning to pay
for the honour of owning a pretty face." She freshened and
turned to Liddy suddenly. "Mind thisLydia Smallburyif
you repeat anywhere a single word of what I have said to you
inside this closed doorI'll never trust youor love you
or have you with me a moment longer -- not a moment!"

I don't want to repeat anything,said Liddywith womanly
dignity of a diminutive order; "but I don't wish to stay
with you. Andif you pleaseI'll go at the end of the
harvestor this weekor to-day.... I don't see that I


deserve to be put upon and stormed at for nothing!"
concluded the small womanbigly.

No, no, Liddy; you must stay!said Bathshebadropping
from haughtiness to entreaty with capricious inconsequence.
You must not notice my being in a taking just now. You are
not as a servant -- you are a companion to me. Dear, dear -I
don't know what I am doing since this miserable ache o'!
my heart has weighted and worn upon me so! What shall I
come to! I suppose I shall get further and further into
troubles. I wonder sometimes if I am doomed to die in the
Union. I am friendless enough, God knows!

I won't notice anything, nor will I leave you!sobbed
Liddyimpulsively putting up her lips to Bathsheba'sand
kissing her.

Then Bathsheba kissed Liddyand all was smooth again.

I don't often cry, do I, Lidd? but you have made tears come
into my eyes,she saida smile shining through the
moisture. "Try to think him a good manwon't youdear
Liddy?"

I will, miss, indeed.

He is a sort of steady man in a wild way, you know. That's
better than to be as some are, wild in a steady way. I am
afraid that's how I am. And promise me to keep my secret -do,
Liddy! And do not let them know that I have been crying
about him, because it will be dreadful for me, and no good
to him, poor thing!

Death's head himself shan't wring it from me, mistress, if
I've a mind to keep anything; and I'll always be your
friend,replied Liddyemphaticallyat the same time
bringing a few more tears into her own eyesnot from any
particular necessitybut from an artistic sense of making
herself in keeping with the remainder of the picturewhich
seems to influence women at such times. "I think God likes
us to be good friendsdon't you?"

Indeed I do.

And, dear miss, you won't harry me and storm at me, will
you? because you seem to swell so tall as a lion then, and
it frightens me! Do you know, I fancy you would be a match
for any man when you are in one o' your takings.

Never! do you?said Bathshebaslightly laughingthough
somewhat seriously alarmed by this Amazonian picture of
herself. "I hope I am not a bold sort of maid -- mannish?"
she continued with some anxiety.

Oh no, not mannish; but so almighty womanish that 'tis
getting on that way sometimes. Ah! miss,she saidafter
having drawn her breath very sadly in and sent it very sadly
outI wish I had half your failing that way. 'Tis a great
protection to a poor maid in these illegit'mate days!

CHAPTER XXXI


BLAME -- FURY

THE next evening Bathshebawith the idea of getting out of
the way of Mr. Boldwood in the event of his returning to
answer her note in personproceeded to fulfil an engagement
made with Liddy some few hours earlier. Bathsheba's
companionas a gage of their reconciliationhad been
granted a week's holiday to visit her sisterwho was
married to a thriving hurdler and cattle-crib-maker living
in a delightful labyrinth of hazel copse not far beyond
Yalbury. The arrangement was that Miss Everdene should
honour them by coming there for a day or two to inspect some
ingenious contrivances which this man of the woods had
introduced into his wares.

Leaving her instructions with Gabriel and Maryannthat they
were to see everything carefully locked up for the night
she went out of the house just at the close of a timely
thunder-showerwhich had refined the airand daintily
bathed the coat of the landthough all beneath was dry as
ever. Freshness was exhaled in an essence from the varied
contours of bank and hollowas if the earth breathed maiden
breath; and the pleased birds were hymning to the scene.
Before heramong the cloudsthere was a contrast in the
shape of lairs of fierce light which showed themselves in
the neighbourhood of a hidden sunlingering on to the
farthest north-west corner of the heavens that this
midsummer season allowed.

She had walked nearly two miles of her journeywatching how
the day was retreatingand thinking how the time of deeds
was quietly melting into the time of thoughtto give place
in its turn to the time of prayer and sleepwhen she beheld
advancing over Yalbury hill the very man she sought so
anxiously to elude. Boldwood was stepping onnot with that
quiet tread of reserved strength which was his customary
gaitin which he always seemed to be balancing two
thoughts. His manner was stunned and sluggish now.

Boldwood had for the first time been awakened to woman's
privileges in tergiversation even when it involves another
person's possible blight. That Bathsheba was a firm and
positive girlfar less inconsequent than her fellowshad
been the very lung of his hope; for he had held that these
qualities would lead her to adhere to a straight course for
consistency's sakeand accept himthough her fancy might
not flood him with the iridescent hues of uncritical love.
But the argument now came back as sorry gleams from a broken
mirror. The discovery was no less a scourge than a
surprise.

He came on looking upon the groundand did not see
Bathsheba till they were less than a stone's throw apart.
He looked up at the sound of her pit-patand his changed
appearance sufficiently denoted to her the depth and
strength of the feelings paralyzed by her letter.

Oh; is it you, Mr. Boldwood?she faltereda guilty warmth
pulsing in her face.

Those who have the power of reproaching in silence may find
it a means more effective than words. There are accents in
the eye which are not on the tongueand more tales come


from pale lips than can enter an ear. It is both the
grandeur and the pain of the remoter moods that they avoid
the pathway of sound. Boldwood's look was unanswerable.

Seeing she turned a little asidehe saidWhat, are you
afraid of me?

Why should you say that?said Bathsheba.

I fancied you looked so,said he. "And it is most
strangebecause of its contrast with my feeling for you.

She regained self-possessionfixed her eyes calmlyand
waited.

You know what that feeling is,continued Boldwood
deliberately. "A thing strong as death. No dismissal by a
hasty letter affects that."

I wish you did not feel so strongly about me,she
murmured. "It is generous of youand more than I deserve
but I must not hear it now."

Hear it? What do you think I have to say, then? I am not
to marry you, and that's enough. Your letter was
excellently plain. I want you to hear nothing -- not I.

Bathsheba was unable to direct her will into any definite
groove for freeing herself from this fearfully and was
moving on. Boldwood walked up to her heavily and dully.

Bathsheba -- darling -- is it final indeed?

Indeed it is.

Oh, Bathsheba -- have pity upon me!Boldwood burst out.
God's sake, yes -- I am come to that low, lowest stage -to
ask a woman for pity! Still, she is you -- she is you.

Bathsheba commanded herself well. But she could hardly get
a clear voice for what came instinctively to her lips:
There is little honour to the woman in that speech.It
was only whisperedfor something unutterably mournful no
less than distressing in this spectacle of a man showing
himself to be so entirely the vane of a passion enervated
the feminine instinct for punctilios.

I am beyond myself about this, and am mad,he said. "I am
no stoic at all to he supplicating here; but I do supplicate
to you. I wish you knew what is in me of devotion to you;
but it is impossiblethat. In bare human mercy to a lonely
mandon't throw me off now!"

I don't throw you off -- indeed, how can I? I never had
you.In her noon-clear sense that she had never loved him
she forgot for a moment her thoughtless angle on that day in
February.

But there was a time when you turned to me, before I
thought of you! I don't reproach you, for even now I feel
that the ignorant and cold darkness that I should have lived
in if you had not attracted me by that letter -- valentine
you call it -- would have been worse than my knowledge of
you, though it has brought this misery. But, I say, there


was a time when I knew nothing of you, and cared nothing for
you, and yet you drew me on. And if you say you gave me no
encouragement, I cannot but contradict you.

What you call encouragement was the childish game of an
idle minute. I have bitterly repented of it -- ay,
bitterly, and in tears. Can you still go on reminding me?

I don't accuse you of it -- I deplore it. I took for
earnest what you insist was jest, and now this that I pray
to be jest you say is awful, wretched earnest. Our moods
meet at wrong places. I wish your feeling was more like
mine, or my feeling more like yours! Oh, could I but have
foreseen the torture that trifling trick was going to lead
me into, how I should have cursed you; but only having been
able to see it since, I cannot do that, for I love you too
well! But it is weak, idle drivelling to go on like this....
Bathsheba, you are the first woman of any shade or nature
that I have ever looked at to love, and it is the having
been so near claiming you for my own that makes this denial
so hard to bear. How nearly you promised me! But I don't
speak now to move your heart, and make you grieve because of
my pain; it is no use, that. I must bear it; my pain would
get no less by paining you.

But I do pity you -- deeply -- O, so deeply!she earnestly
said.

Do no such thing -- do no such thing. Your dear love,
Bathsheba, is such a vast thing beside your pity, that the
loss of your pity as well as your love is no great addition
to my sorrow, nor does the gain of your pity make it
sensibly less. O sweet -- how dearly you spoke to me behind
the spear-bed at the washing-pool, and in the barn at the
shearing, and that dearest last time in the evening at your
home! Where are your pleasant words all gone -- your
earnest hope to be able to love me? Where is your firm
conviction that you would get to care for me very much?
Really forgotten? -- really?

She checked emotionlooked him quietly and clearly in the
faceand said in her lowfirm voiceMr. Boldwood, I
promised you nothing. Would you have had me a woman of clay
when you paid me that furthest, highest compliment a man can
pay a woman -- telling her he loves her? I was bound to show
some feeling, if l would not be a graceless shrew. Yet each
of those pleasures was just for the day -- the day just for
the pleasure. How was I to know that what is a pastime to
all other men was death to you? Have reason, do, and think
more kindly of me!

Well, never mind arguing -- never mind. One thing is sure:
you were all but mine, and now you are not nearly mine.
Everything is changed, and that by you alone, remember. You
were nothing to me once, and I was contented; you are now
nothing to me again, and how different the second nothing is
from the first! Would to God you had never taken me up,
since it was only to throw me down!

Bathshebain spite of her mettlebegan to feel unmistakable
signs that she was inherently the weaker vessel.
She strove miserably against this feminity which would
insist upon supplying unbidden emotions in stronger and
stronger current. She had tried to elude agitation by


fixing her mind on the treesskyany trivial object before
her eyeswhilst his reproaches fellbut ingenuity could
not save her now.

I did not take you up -- surely I did not!she answered as
heroically as she could. "But don't be in this mood with
me. I can endure being told I am in the wrongif you will
only tell it me gently! O sirwill you not kindly forgive
meand look at it cheerfully?"

Cheerfully! Can a man fooled to utter heart-burning find a
reason for being merry? If I have lost, how can I be as if
I had won? Heavens you must be heartless quite! Had I
known what a fearfully bitter sweet this was to be, how
would I have avoided you, and never seen you, and been deaf
of you. I tell you all this, but what do you care! You
don't care.

She returned silent and weak denials to his chargesand
swayed her head desperatelyas if to thrust away the words
as they came showering about her ears from the lips of the
trembling man in the climax of lifewith his bronzed Roman
face and fine frame.

Dearest, dearest, I am wavering even now between the two
opposites of recklessly renouncing you, and labouring humbly
for you again. Forget that you have said No, and let it be
as it was! Say, Bathsheba, that you only wrote that refusal
to me in fun -- come, say it to me!

It would be untrue, and painful to both of us. You
overrate my capacity for love. I don't possess half the
warmth of nature you believe me to have. An unprotected
childhood in a cold world has beaten gentleness out of me.

He immediately said with more resentment: "That may be true
somewhat; but ahMiss Everdeneit won't do as a reason!
You are not the cold woman you would have me believe. No
no! It isn't because you have no feeling in you that you
don't love me. You naturally would have me think so -- you
would hide from me that you have a burning heart like mine.
You have love enoughbut it is turned into a new channel.
I know where."

The swift music of her heart became hubbub nowand she
throbbed to extremity. He was coming to Troy. He did then
know what had occurred! And the name fell from his lips the
next moment.

Why did Troy not leave my treasure alone?he asked
fiercely. "When I had no thought of injuring himwhy did
he force himself upon your notice! Before he worried you
your inclination was to have me; when next I should have
come to you your answer would have been Yes. Can you deny
it -- I askcan you deny it?"

She delayed the replybut was to honest to with hold it.
I cannot,she whispered.

I know you cannot. But he stole in in my absence and
robbed me. Why did't he win you away before, when nobody
would have been grieved? -- when nobody would have been set
tale-bearing. Now the people sneer at me -- the very hills
and sky seem to laugh at me till I blush shamefuly for my


folly. I have lost my respect, my good name, my standing -lost
it, never to get it again. Go and marry your man -- go
on!

Oh sir -- Mr. Boldwood!

You may as well. I have no further claim upon you. As for
me, I had better go somewhere alone, and hide -- and pray.
I loved a woman once. I am now ashamed. When I am dead
they'll say, Miserable love-sick man that he was. Heaven -heaven
-- if I had got jilted secretly, and the dishonour
not known, and my position kept! But no matter, it is gone,
and the woman not gained. Shame upon him -- shame!

His unreasonable anger terrified herand she glided from
himwithout obviously movingas she saidI am only a
girl -- do not speak to me so!

All the time you knew -- how very well you knew -- that
your new freak was my misery. Dazzled by brass and scarlet
-- Oh, Bathsheba -- this is woman's folly indeed!

She fired up at once. "You are taking too much upon
yourself!" she saidvehemently. "Everybody is upon me -everybody.
It is unmanly to attack a woman so! I have
nobody in the world to fight my battles for me; but no mercy
is shown. Yet if a thousand of you sneer and say things
against meI WILL NOT be put down!"

You'll chatter with him doubtless about me. Say to him,
Boldwood would have died for me." Yesand you have given
way to himknowing him to be not the man for you. He has
kissed you -- claimed you as his. Do you hear -- he has
kissed you. Deny it!"

The most tragic woman is cowed by a tragic manand although
Boldwood wasin vehemence and glownearly her own self
rendered into another sexBathsheba's cheek quivered. She
gaspedLeave me, sir -- leave me! I am nothing to you.
Let me go on!

Deny that he has kissed you.

I shall not.

Ha -- then he has!came hoarsely from the farmer.

He has,she saidslowlyandin spite of her fear
defiantly. "I am not ashamed to speak the truth."

Then curse him; and curse him!said Boldwoodbreaking
into a whispered fury." Whilst I would have given worlds to
touch your handyou have let a rake come in without right
or ceremony and -- kiss you! Heaven's mercy -- kiss you!
... Aha time of his life shall come when he will have to
repentand think wretchedly of the pain he has caused
another man; and then may he acheand wishand curseand
yearn -- as I do now!"

Don't, don't, oh, don't pray down evil upon him!she
implored in a miserable cry. "Anything but that -anything.
Ohbe kind to himsirfor I love him true!"

Boldwood's ideas had reached that point of fusion at which


outline and consistency entirely disappear. The impending
night appeared to concentrate in his eye. He did not hear
her at all now.

I'll punish him -- by my soul, that will I! I'll meet him,
soldier or no, and I'll horsewhip the untimely stripling for
this reckless theft of my one delight. If he were a hundred
men I'd horsewhip him ----He dropped his voice suddenly
and unnaturally. "Bathshebasweetlost coquettepardon
me! I've been blaming youthreatening youbehaving like a
churl to youwhen he's the greatest sinner. He stole your
dear heart away with his unfathomable lies! ... It is a
fortunate thing for him that he's gone back to his regiment
-- that he's away up the countryand not here! I hope he
may not return here just yet. I pray God he may not come
into my sightfor I may be tempted beyond myself. Oh
Bathshebakeep him away -- yeskeep him away from me!"

For a moment Boldwood stood so inertly after this that his
soul seemed to have been entirely exhaled with the breath of
his passionate words. He turned his face awayand
withdrewand his form was soon covered over by the twilight
as his footsteps mixed in with the low hiss of the leafy
trees.

Bathshebawho had been standing motionless as a model all
this latter timeflung her hands to her faceand wildly
attempted to ponder on the exhibition which had just passed
away. Such astounding wells of fevered feeling in a still
man like Mr. Boldwood were incomprehensibledreadful.
Instead of being a man trained to repression he was -- what
she had seen him.

The force of the farmer's threats lay in their relation to a
circumstance known at present only to herself: her lover was
coming back to Weatherbury in the course of the very next
day or two. Troy had not returned to his distant barracks
as Boldwood and others supposedbut had merely gone to
visit some acquaintance in Bathand had yet a week or more
remaining to his furlough.

She felt wretchedly certain that if he revisited her just at
this nick of timeand came into contact with Boldwooda
fierce quarrel would be the consequence. She panted with
solicitude when she thought of possible injury to Troy. The
least spark would kindle the farmer's swift feelings of rage
and jealousy; he would lose his self-mastery as he had this
evening; Troy's blitheness might become aggressive; it might
take the direction of derisionand Boldwood's anger might
then take the direction of revenge.

With almost a morbid dread of being thought a gushing girl
this guileless woman too well concealed from the world under
a manner of carelessness the warm depths of her strong
emotions. But now there was no reserve. In her
distractioninstead of advancing further she walked up and
downbeating the air with her fingerspressing on her
browand sobbing brokenly to herself. Then she sat down on
a heap of stones by the wayside to think. There she
remained long. Above the dark margin of the earth appeared
foreshores and promontories of coppery cloudbounding a
green and pellucid expanse in the western sky. Amaranthine
glosses came over them thenand the unresting world wheeled
her round to a contrasting prospect eastwardin the shape


of indecisive and palpitating stars. She gazed upon their
silent throes amid the shades of spacebut realised none at
all. Her troubled spirit was far away with Troy.

CHAPTER XXXII

NIGHT -- HORSES TRAMPING

THE village of Weatherbury was quiet as the graveyard in its
midstand the living were lying well-nigh as still as the
dead. The church clock struck eleven. The air was so empty
of other sounds that the whirr of the clock-work immediately
before the strokes was distinctand so was also the click
of the same at their close. The notes flew forth with the
usual blind obtuseness of inanimate things -- flapping and
rebounding among wallsundulating against the scattered
cloudsspreading through their interstices into unexplored
miles of space.

Bathsheba's crannied and mouldy halls were to-night occupied
only by MaryannLiddy beingas was statedwith her
sisterwhom Bathsheba had set out to visit. A few minutes
after eleven had struckMaryann turned in her bed with a
sense of being disturbed. She was totally unconscious of
the nature of the interruption to her sleep. It led to a
dreamand the dream to an awakeningwith an uneasy
sensation that something had happened. She left her bed and
looked out of the window. The paddock abutted on this end
of the buildingand in the paddock she could just discern
by the uncertain gray a moving figure approaching the horse
that was feeding there. The figure seized the horse by the
forelockand led it to the corner of the field. Here she
could see some object which circumstances proved to be a
vehiclefor after a few minutes spent apparently in
harnessingshe heard the trot of the horse down the road
mingled with the sound of light wheels.

Two varieties only of humanity could have entered the
paddock with the ghostlike glide of that mysterious figure.
They were a woman and a gipsy man. A woman was out of the
question in such an occupation at this hourand the comer
could be no less than a thiefwho might probably have known
the weakness of the household on this particular nightand
have chosen it on that account for his daring attempt.
Moreoverto raise suspicion to conviction itselfthere
were gipsies in Weatherbury Bottom.

Maryannwho had been afraid to shout in the robber's
presencehaving seen him depart had no fear. She hastily
slipped on her clothesstumped down the disjointed
staircase with its hundred creaksran to Coggan'sthe
nearest houseand raised an alarm. Coggan called Gabriel
who now again lodged in his house as at firstand together
they went to the paddock. Beyond all doubt the horse was
gone.

Hark!said Gabriel.

They listened. Distinct upon the stagnant air came the
sounds of a trotting horse passing up Longpuddle Lane -just
beyond the gipsies' encampment in Weatherbury Bottom.


That's our Dainty -- I'll swear to her step,said Jan.

Mighty me! Won't mis'ess storm and call us stupids wen she
comes back!moaned Maryann. "How I wish it had happened
when she was at homeand none of us had been answerable!"

We must ride after,said Gabrieldecisively. "I'll be
responsible to Miss Everdene for what we do. Yeswe'll
follow."

Faith, I don't see how,said Coggan. "All our horses are
too heavy for that trick except little Poppetand what's
she between two of us? -- If we only had that pair over the
hedge we might do something."

Which pair?

Mr. Boldwood's Tidy and Moll.

Then wait here till I come hither again,said Gabriel. He
ran down the hill towards Farmer Boldwood's.

Farmer Boldwood is not at home,said Maryann.

All the better,said Coggan. "I know what he's gone for."

Less than five minutes brought up Oak againrunning at the
same pacewith two halters dangling from his hand.

Where did you find 'em?said Cogganturning round and
leaping upon the hedge without waiting for an answer.

Under the eaves. I knew where they were kept,said
Gabrielfollowing him. "Cogganyou can ride bare-backed?
there's no time to look for saddles."

Like a hero!said Jan.

Maryann, you go to bed,Gabriel shouted to her from the
top of the hedge.

Springing down into Boldwood's pastureseach pocketed his
halter to hide it from the horseswhoseeing the men
empty-handeddocilely allowed themselves to he seized by
the manewhen the halters were dexterously slipped on.
Having neither bit nor bridleOak and Coggan extemporized
the former by passing the rope in each case through the
animal's mouth and looping it on the other side. Oak
vaulted astrideand Coggan clambered up by aid of the bank
when they ascended to the gate and galloped off in the
direction taken by Bathsheha's horse and the robber. Whose
vehicle the horse had been harnessed to was a matter of some
uncertainty.

Weatherbury Bottom was reached in three or four minutes.
They scanned the shady green patch by the roadside. The
gipsies were gone.

The villains!said Gabriel. "Which way have they goneI
wonder?"

Straight on, as sure as God made little apples,said Jan.


Very well; we are better mounted, and must overtake em',
said Oak. Now on at full speed!"

No sound of the rider in their van could now be discovered.
The road-metal grew softer and more rain had wetted its
surface to a somewhat plasticbut not muddy state. They
came to cross-roads. Coggan suddenly pulled up Moll and
slipped off.

What's the matter?said Gabriel.

We must try to track 'em, since we can't hear 'em,said
Janfumbling in his pockets. He struck a lightand held
the match to the ground. The rain had been heavier here
and all foot and horse tracks made previous to the storm had
been abraded and blurred by the dropsand they were now so
many little scoops of waterwhich reflected the flame of
the match like eyes. One set of tracks was fresh and had no
water in them; one pair of ruts was also emptyand not
small canalslike the others. The footprints forming this
recent impression were full of information as to pace; they
were in equidistant pairsthree or four feet apartthe
right and left foot of each pair being exactly opposite one
another.

Straight on!Jan exclaimed. "Tracks like that mean a
stiff gallop. No wonder we don't hear him. And the horse
is harnessed -- look at the ruts. Aythat's our mare sure
enough!"

How do you know?

Old Jimmy Harris only shoed her last week, and I'd swear to
his make among ten thousand.

The rest of the gipsies must ha' gone on earlier, or some
other way,said Oak. "You saw there were no other tracks?"

True.They rode along silently for a long weary time.
Coggan carried an old pinchbeck repeater which he had
inherited from some genius in his family; and it now struck
one. He lighted another matchand examined the ground
again.

'Tis a canter now,he saidthrowing away the light. "A
twistyrickety pace for a gig. The fact isthey overdrove
her at startingwe shall catch 'em yet."

Again they hastened onand entered Blackmore Vale.
Coggan's watch struck one. When they looked again the hoofmarks
were so spaced as to form a sort of zigzag if united
like the lamps along a street.

That's a trot, I know,said Gabriel.

Only a trot now,said Coggancheerfully. "We shall
overtake him in time."

They pushed rapidly on for yet two or three miles. "Ah! a
moment said Jan. Let's see how she was driven up this
hill. 'Twill help us." A light was promptly struck upon
his gaiters as beforeand the examination made.

Hurrah!said Coggan. "She walked up here -- and well she


might. We shall get them in two milesfor a crown."

They rode threeand listened. No sound was to be heard
save a millpond trickling hoarsely through a hatchand
suggesting gloomy possibilities of drowning by jumping in.
Gabriel dismounted when they came to a turning. The tracks
were absolutely the only guide as to the direction that they
now hadand great caution was necessary to avoid confusing
them with some others which had made their appearance
lately.

What does this mean? -- though I guess,said Gabriel
looking up at Coggan as he moved the match over the ground
about the turning. Cogganwhono less than the panting
horseshad latterly shown signs of wearinessagain
scrutinized the mystic characters. This time only three
were of the regular horseshoe shape. Every fourth was a
dot.

He screwed up his face and emitted a long "Whew-w-w!"

Lame,said Oak.

Yes Dainty is lamed; the near-foot-afore,said Coggan
slowly staring still at the footprints.

We'll push on,said Gabrielremounting his humid steed.

Although the road along its greater part had been as good as
any turnpike-road in the countryit was nominally only a
byway. The last turning had brought them into the high road
leading to Bath. Coggan recollected himself.

We shall have him now!he exclaimed.

Where?

Sherton Turnpike. The keeper of that gate is the sleepiest
man between here and London -- Dan Randall, that's his name
-- knowed en for years, when he was at Casterbridge gate.
Between the lameness and the gate 'tis a done job.

They now advanced with extreme caution. Nothing was said
untilagainst a shady background of foliagefive white
bars were visiblecrossing their route a little way ahead.

Hush -- we are almost close!said Gabriel.

Amble on upon the grass,said Coggan.

The white bars were blotted out in the midst by a dark shape
in front of them. The silence of this lonely time was
pierced by an exclamation from that quarter.

Hoy-a-hoy! Gate!

It appeared that there had been a previous call which they
had not noticedfor on their close approach the door of the
turnpike-house openedand the keeper came out half-dressed
with a candle in his hand. The rays illumined the whole
group.

Keep the gate close!shouted Gabriel. "He has stolen the
horse!"


Who?said the turnpike-man.

Gabriel looked at the driver of the gigand saw a woman --
Bathshebahis mistress.

On hearing his voice she had turned her face away from the
light. Coggan hadhowevercaught sight of her in the
meanwhile.

Why, 'tis mistress -- I'll take my oath!he saidamazed.

Bathsheba it certainly wasand she had by this time done
the trick she could do so well in crises not of love
namelymask a surprise by coolness of manner.

Well, Gabriel,she inquired quietly where are you
going?

We thought ----began Gabriel.

I am driving to Bath,she saidtaking for her own use the
assurance that Gabriel lacked. "An important matter made it
necessary for me to give up my visit to Liddyand go off at
once. Whatthenwere you following me?"

We thought the horse was stole.

Well -- what a thing! How very foolish of you not to know
that I had taken the trap and horse. I could neither wake
Maryann nor get into the house, though I hammered for ten
minutes against her window-sill. Fortunately, I could get
the key of the coach-house, so I troubled no one further.
Didn't you think it might be me?

Why should we, miss?

Perhaps not. Why, those are never Farmer Bold-wood's
horses! Goodness mercy! what have you been doing -bringing
trouble upon me in this way? What! mustn't a lady
move an inch from her door without being dogged like a
thief?

But how was we to know, if you left no account of your
doings?expostulated Cogganand ladies don't drive at
these hours, miss, as a jineral rule of society.

I did leave an account -- and you would have seen it in the
morning. I wrote in chalk on the coach-house doors that I
had come back for the horse and gig, and driven off; that I
could arouse nobody, and should return soon.

But you'll consider, ma'am, that we couldn't see that till
it got daylight.

True,she saidand though vexed at first she had too much
sense to blame them long or seriously for a devotion to her
that was as valuable as it was rare. She added with a very
pretty graceWell, I really thank you heartily for taking
all this trouble; but I wish you had borrowed anybody's
horses but Mr. Boldwood's.

Dainty is lame, miss,said Coggan. "Can ye go on?"


It was only a stone in her shoe. I got down and pulled it
out a hundred yards back. I can manage very well, thank
you. I shall be in Bath by daylight. Will you now return,
please?

She turned her head -- the gateman's candle shimmering upon
her quickclear eyes as she did so -- passed through the
gateand was soon wrapped in the embowering shades of
mysterious summer boughs. Coggan and Gabriel put about
their horsesandfanned by the velvety air of this July
nightretraced the road by which they had come.

A strange vagary, this of hers, isn't it, Oak?said
Coggancuriously.

Yes,said Gabrielshortly.

She won't be in Bath by no daylight!

Coggan, suppose we keep this night's work as quiet as we
can?

I am of one and the same mind.

Very well. We shall be home by three o'clock or so, and
can creep into the parish like lambs.

Bathsheba's perturbed meditations by the roadside had
ultimately evolved a conclusion that there were only two
remedies for the present desperate state of affairs. The
first was merely to keep Troy away from Weatherbury till
Boldwood's indignation had cooled; the second to listen to
Oak's entreatiesand Boldwood's denunciationsand give up
Troy altogether.

Alas! Could she give up this new love -- induce him to
renounce her by saying she did not like him -- could no more
speak to himand beg himfor her goodto end his furlough
in Bathand see her and Weatherbury no more?

It was a picture full of miserybut for a while she
contemplated it firmlyallowing herselfneverthelessas
girls willto dwell upon the happy life she would have
enjoyed had Troy been Boldwoodand the path of love the
path of duty -- inflicting upon herself gratuitous tortures
by imagining him the lover of another woman after forgetting
her; for she had penetrated Troy's nature so far as to
estimate his tendencies pretty accuratelyhut unfortunately
loved him no less in thinking that he might soon cease to
love her -- indeedconsiderably more.

She jumped to her feet. She would see him at once. Yes
she would implore him by word of mouth to assist her in this
dilemma. A letter to keep him away could not reach him in
timeeven if he should be disposed to listen to it.

Was Bathsheba altogether blind to the obvious fact that the
support of a lover's arms is not of a kind best calculated
to assist a resolve to renounce him? Or was she
sophistically sensiblewith a thrill of pleasurethat by
adopting this course for getting rid of him she was ensuring
a meeting with himat any rateonce more?


It was now darkand the hour must have been nearly ten.
The only way to accomplish her purpose was to give up her
idea of visiting Liddy at Yalburyreturn to Weatherbury
Farmput the horse into the gigand drive at once to Bath.
The scheme seemed at first impossible: the journey was a
fearfully heavy oneeven for a strong horseat her own
estimate; and she much underrated the distance. It was most
venturesome for a womanat nightand alone.

But could she go on to Liddy's and leave things to take
their course? Nono; anything but that. Bathsheba was
full of a stimulating turbulencebeside which caution
vainly prayed for a hearing. She turned back towards the
village.

Her walk was slowfor she wished not to enter Weatherbury
till the cottagers were in bedandparticularlytill
Boldwood was secure. Her plan was now to drive to Bath
during the nightsee Sergeant Troy in the morning before he
set out to come to herbid him farewelland dismiss him:
then to rest the horse thoroughly (herself to weep the
whileshe thought)starting early the next morning on her
return journey. By this arrangement she could trot Dainty
gently all the dayreach Liddy at Yalbury in the evening
and come home to Weatherbury with her whenever they chose -so
nobody would know she had been to Bath at all. Such was
Bathsheba's scheme. But in her topographical ignorance as a
late comer to the placeshe misreckoned the distance of her
journey as not much more than half what it really was.

This idea she proceeded to carry outwith what initial
success we have already seen.

CHAPTER XXXIII

IN THE SUN -- A HARBINGER

A WEEK passedand there were no tidings of Bathsheba; nor
was there any explanation of her Gilpin's rig.

Then a note came for Maryannstating that the business
which had called her mistress to Bath still detained her
there; but that she hoped to return in the course of another
week.

Another week passed. The oat-harvest beganand all the men
were a-field under a monochromatic Lammas skyamid the
trembling air and short shadows of noon. Indoors nothing
was to be heard save the droning of blue-bottle flies; outof-
doors the whetting of scythes and the hiss of tressy oatears
rubbing together as their perpendicular stalks of
amber-yellow fell heavily to each swath. Every drop of
moisture not in the men's bottles and flagons in the form of
cider was raining as perspiration from their foreheads and
cheeks. Drought was everywhere else.

They were about to withdraw for a while into the charitable
shade of a tree in the fencewhen Coggan saw a figure in a
blue coat and brass buttons running to them across the
field.


I wonder who that is?he said.

I hope nothing is wrong about mistress,said Maryannwho
with some other women was tying the bundles (oats being
always sheafed on this farm)but an unlucky token came to
me indoors this morning. I went to unlock the door and
dropped the key, and it fell upon the stone floor and broke
into two pieces. Breaking a key is a dreadful bodement. I
wish mis'ess was home.

'Tis Cain Ball,said Gabrielpausing from whetting his
reaphook.

Oak was not bound by his agreement to assist in the cornfield;
but the harvest month is an anxious time for a
farmerand the corn was Bathsheba'sso he lent a hand.

He's dressed up in his best clothes,said Matthew Moon.
He hev been away from home for a few days, since he's had
that felon upon his finger; for 'a said, since I can't work
I'll have a hollerday.

A good time for one -- a' excellent time,said Joseph
Poorgrassstraightening his back; for helike some of the
othershad a way of resting a while from his labour on such
hot days for reasons preternaturally small; of which Cain
Ball's advent on a week-day in his Sunday-clothes was one of
the first magnitude. "Twas a bad leg allowed me to read the
PILGRIM'S PROGRESSand Mark Clark learnt All-Fours in a
whitlow."

Ay, and my father put his arm out of joint to have time to
go courting,said Jan Cogganin an eclipsing tonewiping
his face with his shirt-sleeve and thrusting back his hat
upon the nape of his neck.

By this time Cainy was nearing the group of harvestersand
was perceived to be carrying a large slice of bread and ham
in one handfrom which he took mouthfuls as he ranthe
other being wrapped in a bandage. When he came closehis
mouth assumed the bell shapeand he began to cough
violently.

Now, Cainy!said Gabrielsternly. "How many more times
must I tell you to keep from running so fast when you be
eating? You'll choke yourself some daythat's what you'll
doCain Ball."

Hok-hok-hok!replied Cain. "A crumb of my victuals went
the wrong way -- hok-hok!That's what 'tisMister Oak! And
I've been visiting to Bath because I had a felon on my
thumb; yesand l've seen -- ahok-hok!"

Directly Cain mentioned Baththey all threw down their
hooks and forks and drew round him. Unfortunately the
erratic crumb did not improve his narrative powersand a
supplementary hindrance was that of a sneezejerking from
his pocket his rather large watchwhich dangled in front of
the young man pendulum-wise.

Yes,he continueddirecting his thoughts to Bath and
letting his eyes followl've seed the world at last -- yes
-- and I've seed our mis'ess -- ahok-hok-hok!


Bother the boy!said Gabriel." Something is always going
the wrong way down your throatso that you can't tell
what's necessary to be told."

Ahok! there! Please, Mister Oak, a gnat have just fleed
into my stomach and brought the cough on again!

Yes, that's just it. Your mouth is always open, you young
rascal!

'Tis terrible bad to have a gnat fly down yer throat, pore
boy!said Matthew Moon.

Well, at Bath you saw ----prompted Gabriel.

I saw our mistress,continued the junior shepherdand a
sojer, walking along. And bymeby they got closer and
closer, and then they went arm-in-crook, like courting
complete -- hok-hok! like courting complete -- hok! -courting
complete ----Losing the thread of his narrative
at this point simultaneously with his loss of breaththeir
informant looked up and down the field apparently for some
clue to it. "WellI see our mis'ess and a soldier -- a-haa-
wk!"

Damn the boy!said Gabriel.

'Tis only my manner, Mister Oak, if ye'll excuse it,said
Cain Balllooking reproachfully at Oakwith eyes drenched
in their own dew.

Here's some cider for him -- that'll cure his throat,said
Jan Cogganlifting a flagon of ciderpulling out the cork
and applying the hole to Cainy's mouth; Joseph Poorgrass in
the meantime beginning to think apprehensively of the
serious consequences that would follow Cainy Ball's
strangulation in his coughand the history of his Bath
adventures dying with him.

For my poor self, I always say 'please God' afore I do
anything,said Josephin an unboastful voice; "and so
should youCain Ball. 'Tis a great safeguardand might
perhaps save you from being choked to death some day."

Mr. Coggan poured the liquor with unstinted liberality at
the suffering Cain's circular mouth; half of it running down
the side of the flagonand half of what reached his mouth
running down outside his throatand half of what ran in
going the wrong wayand being coughed and sneezed around
the persons of the gathered reapers in the form of a cider
fogwhich for a moment hung in the sunny air like a small
exhalation.

There's a great clumsy sneeze! Why can't ye have better
manners, you young dog!said Cogganwithdrawing the
flagon.

The cider went up my nose!cried Cainyas soon as he
could speak; "and now 'tis gone down my neckand into my
poor dumb felonand over my shiny buttons and all my best
cloze!"

The poor lad's cough is terrible unfortunate,said Matthew
Moon. "And a great history on handtoo. Bump his back


shepherd."

'Tis my nater,mourned Cain. "Mother says I always was so
excitable when my feelings were worked up to a point!"

True, true,said Joseph Poorgrass. "The Balls were always
a very excitable family. I knowed the boy's grandfather -a
truly nervous and modest maneven to genteel refinery.
'Twas blushblush with himalmost as much as 'tis with me
-- not but that 'tis a fault in me!"

Not at all, Master Poorgrass,said Coggan. "'Tis a very
noble quality in ye."

Heh-heh! well, I wish to noise nothing abroad -- nothing at
all,murmured Poorgrassdiffidently. "But we be born to
things -- that's true. Yet I would rather my trifle were
hid; thoughperhapsa high nater is a little highand at
my birth all things were possible to my Makerand he may
have begrudged no gifts.... But under your bushelJoseph!
under your bushel with 'ee! A strange desireneighbours
this desire to hideand no praise due. Yet there is a
Sermon on the Mount with a calendar of the blessed at the
headand certain meek men may be named therein."

Cainy's grandfather was a very clever man,said Matthew
Moon. "Invented a' apple-tree out of his own headwhich is
called by his name to this day -- the Early Ball. You know
'emJan? A Quarrenden grafted on a Tom Puttand a Ratheripe
upon top o' that again. "'Tis trew 'a used to bide
about in a public-house wi' a 'ooman in a way he had no
business to by rightsbut there -- 'a were a clever man in
the sense of the term."

Now then,said Gabrielimpatientlywhat did you see,
Cain?

I seed our mis'ess go into a sort of a park place, where
there's seats, and shrubs and flowers, arm-in-crook with a
sojer,continued Cainyfirmlyand with a dim sense that
his words were very effective as regarded Gabriel's
emotions. "And I think the sojer was Sergeant Troy. And
they sat there together for more than half-an-hourtalking
moving thingsand she once was crying a'most to death. And
when they came out her eyes were shining and she was as
white as a lily; and they looked into one another's faces
as far-gone friendly as a man and woman can be."

Gabriel's features seemed to get thinner. "Wellwhat did
you see besides?"

Oh, all sorts.

White as a lily? You are sure 'twas she?

Yes."

Well, what besides?

Great glass windows to the shops, and great clouds in the
sky, full of rain, and old wooden trees in the country
round.

You stun-poll! What will ye say next?said Coggan.


Let en alone,interposed Joseph Poorgrass. "The boy's
meaning is that the sky and the earth in the kingdom of Bath
is not altogether different from ours here. 'Tis for our
good to gain knowledge of strange citiesand as such the
boy's words should be sufferedso to speak it."

And the people of Bath,continued Cainnever need to
light their fires except as a luxury, for the water springs
up out of the earth ready boiled for use.

'Tis true as the light,testified Matthew Moon. "I've
heard other navigators say the same thing."

They drink nothing else there,said Cainand seem to
enjoy it, to see how they swaller it down.

Well, it seems a barbarian practice enough to us, but I
daresay the natives think nothing o' it,said Matthew.

And don't victuals spring up as well as drink?asked
Coggantwirling his eye.

No -- I own to a blot there in Bath -- a true blot. God
didn't provide 'em with victuals as well as drink, and 'twas
a drawback I couldn't get over at all.

Well, 'tis a curious place, to say the least,observed
Moon; "and it must be a curious people that live therein."

Miss Everdene and the soldier were walking about together,
you say?said Gabrielreturning to the group.

Ay, and she wore a beautiful gold-colour silk gown, trimmed
with black lace, that would have stood alone 'ithout legs
inside if required. 'Twas a very winsome sight; and her
hair was brushed splendid. And when the sun shone upon the
bright gown and his red coat -- my! how handsome they
looked. You could see 'em all the length of the street.

And what then?murmured Gabriel.

And then I went into Griffin's to hae my boots hobbed, and
then I went to Riggs's batty-cake shop, and asked 'em for a
penneth of the cheapest and nicest stales, that were all but
blue-mouldy, but not quite. And whilst I was chawing 'em
down I walked on and seed a clock with a face as big as a
baking trendle ----

But that's nothing to do with mistress!

I'm coming to that, if you'll leave me alone, Mister Oak!
remonstrated Cainy. "If you excites meperhaps you'll
bring on my coughand then I shan't be able to tell ye
nothing."

Yes -- let him tell it his own way,said Coggan.

Gabriel settled into a despairing attitude of patienceand
Cainy went on: -


And there were great large houses, and more people all the
week long than at Weatherbury club-walking on White
Tuesdays. And I went to grand churches and chapels. And


how the parson would pray! Yes; he would kneel down and put
up his hands together, and make the holy gold rings on his
fingers gleam and twinkle in yer eyes, that he'd earned by
praying so excellent well! -- Ah yes, I wish I lived there.

Our poor Parson Thirdly can't get no money to buy such
rings,said Matthew Moonthoughtfully. "And as good a man
as ever walked. I don't believe poor Thirdly have a single
oneeven of humblest tin or copper. Such a great ornament
as they'd be to him on a dull afternoonwhen he's up in the
pulpit lighted by the wax candles! But 'tis impossible
poor man. Ahto think how unequal things be."

Perhaps he's made of different stuff than to wear 'em,
said Gabrielgrimly. "Wellthat's enough of this. Go on
Cainy -- quick."

Oh -- and the new style of parsons wear moustaches and long
beards,continued the illustrious travellerand look like
Moses and Aaron complete, and make we fokes in the
congregation feel all over like the children of Israel.

A very right feeling -- very,said Joseph Poorgrass.

And there's two religions going on in the nation now --
High Church and High Chapel. And, thinks I, I'll play fair;
so I went to High Church in the morning, and High Chapel in
the afternoon.

A right and proper boy,said Joseph Poorgrass.

Well, at High Church they pray singing, and worship all the
colours of the rainbow; and at High Chapel they pray
preaching, and worship drab and whitewash only. And then -I
didn't see no more of Miss Everdene at all.

Why didn't you say so afore, then?exclaimed Oakwith
much disappointment.

Ah,said Matthew Moonshe'll wish her cake dough if so
be she's over intimate with that man.

She's not over intimate with him,said Gabriel
indignantly.

She would know better,said Coggan. "Our mis'ess has too
much sense under they knots of black hair to do such a mad
thing."

You see, he's not a coarse, ignorant man, for he was well
brought up,said Matthewdubiously. "'Twas only wildness
that made him a soldierand maids rather like your man of
sin."

Now, Cain Ball,said Gabriel restlesslycan you swear in
the most awful form that the woman you saw was Miss
Everdene?

Cain Ball, you be no longer a babe and suckling,said
Joseph in the sepulchral tone the circumstances demanded
and you know what taking an oath is. 'Tis a horrible
testament mind ye, which you say and seal with your bloodstone,
and the prophet Matthew tells us that on whomsoever
it shall fall it will grind him to powder. Now, before all


the work-folk here assembled, can you swear to your words as
the shepherd asks ye?

Please no, Mister Oak!said Cainylooking from one to the
other with great uneasiness at the spiritual magnitude of
the position. "I don't mind saying 'tis truebut I don't
like to say 'tis damn trueif that's what you mane."

Cain, Cain, how can you!asked Joseph sternly. "You be
asked to swear in a holy mannerand you swear like wicked
Shimeithe son of Gerawho cursed as he came. Young man
fie!"

No, I don't! 'Tis you want to squander a pore boy's soul,
Joseph Poorgrass -- that's what 'tis!said Cainbeginning
to cry. "All I mane is that in common truth 'twas Miss
Everdene and Sergeant Troybut in the horrible so-help-me
truth that ye want to make of it perhaps 'twas somebody
else!"

There's no getting at the rights of it,said Gabriel
turning to his work.

Cain Ball, you'll come to a bit of bread!groaned Joseph
Poorgrass.

Then the reapers' hooks were flourished againand the old
sounds went on. Gabrielwithout making any pretence of
being livelydid nothing to show that he was particularly
dull. HoweverCoggan knew pretty nearly how the land lay
and when they were in a nook together he said -


Don't take on about her, Gabriel. What difference does it
make whose sweetheart she is, since she can't be yours?

That's the very thing I say to myself,said Gabriel.

CHAPTER XXXIV

HOME AGAIN -- A TRICKSTER

THAT same evening at dusk Gabriel was leaning over Coggan's
garden-gatetaking an up-and-down survey before retiring to
rest.

A vehicle of some kind was softly creeping along the grassy
margin of the lane. From it spread the tones of two women
talking. The tones were natural and not at all suppressed.
Oak instantly knew the voices to he those of Bathsheba and
Liddy.

The carriage came opposite and passed by. It was Miss
Everdene's gigand Liddy and her mistress were the only
occupants of the seat. Liddy was asking questions about the
city of Bathand her companion was answering them
listlessly and unconcernedly. Both Bathsheba and the horse
seemed weary.

The exquisite relief of finding that she was here again
safe and soundoverpowered all reflectionand Oak could
only luxuriate in the sense of it. All grave reports were


forgotten.

He lingered and lingered ontill there was no difference
between the eastern and western expanses of skyand the
timid hares began to limp courageously round the dim
hillocks. Gabriel might have been there an additional halfhour
when a dark form walked slowly by. "Good-night
Gabriel the passer said.

It was Boldwood. Good-nightsir said Gabriel.

Boldwood likewise vanished up the road, and Oak shortly
afterwards turned indoors to bed.

Farmer Boldwood went on towards Miss Everdene's house. He
reached the front, and approaching the entrance, saw a light
in the parlour. The blind was not drawn down, and inside
the room was Bathsheba, looking over some papers or letters.
Her back was towards Boldwood. He went to the door,
knocked, and waited with tense muscles and an aching brow.

Boldwood had not been outside his garden since his meeting
with Bathsheba in the road to Yalbury. Silent and alone, he
had remained in moody meditation on woman's ways, deeming as
essentials of the whole sex the accidents of the single one
of their number he had ever closely beheld. By degrees a
more charitable temper had pervaded him, and this was the
reason of his sally to-night. He had come to apologize and
beg forgiveness of Bathsheba with something like a sense of
shame at his violence, having but just now learnt that she
had returned -- only from a visit to Liddy, as he supposed,
the Bath escapade being quite unknown to him.

He inquired for Miss Everdene. Liddy's manner was odd, but
he did not notice it. She went in, leaving him standing
there, and in her absence the blind of the room containing
Bathsheba was pulled down. Boldwood augured ill from that
sign. Liddy came out.

My mistress cannot see yousir she said.

The farmer instantly went out by the gate. He as unforgiven
-- that was the issue of it all. He had seen her who was to
him simultaneously a delight and a torture, sitting in the
room he had shared with her as a peculiarly privileged guest
only a little earlier in the summer, and she had denied him
an entrance there now.

Boldwood did not hurry homeward. It was ten o'clock at
least, when, walking deliberately through the lower part of
Weatherbury, he heard the carrier's spring van entering the
village. The van ran to and from a town in a northern
direction, and it was owned and driven by a Weatherbury man,
at the door of whose house it now pulled up. The lamp fixed
to the head of the hood illuminated a scarlet and gilded
form, who was the first to alight.

Ah!" said Boldwood to himselfcome to see her again.

Troy entered the carrier's housewhich had been the place
of his lodging on his last visit to his native place.
Boldwood was moved by a sudden determination. He hastened
home. In ten minutes he was back againand made as if he
were going to call upon Troy at the carrier's. But as he


approachedsome one opened the door and came out. He heard
this person say " Good-night" to the inmatesand the voice
was Troy's. "This was strangecoming so immediately after
his arrival. Boldwoodhoweverhastened up to him. Troy
had what appeared to be a carpet-bag in his hand -- the same
that he had brought with him. It seemed as if he were going
to leave again this very night.

Troy turned up the hill and quickened his pace. Boldwood
stepped forward.

Sergeant Troy?

Yes -- I'm Sergeant Troy.

Just arrived from up the country, I think?

Just arrived from Bath.

I am William Boldwood.

Indeed.

The tone in which this word was uttered was all that had
been wanted to bring Boldwood to the point.

I wish to speak a word with you,he said.

What about?

About her who lives just ahead there -- and about a woman
you have wronged.

I wonder at your impertinence,said Troymoving on.

Now look here,said Boldwoodstanding in front of him
wonder or not, you are going to hold a conversation with
me.

Troy heard the dull determination in Boldwood's voice
looked at his stalwart framethen at the thick cudgel he
carried in his hand. He remembered it was past ten o'clock.
It seemed worth while to be civil to Boldwood.

Very well, I'll listen with pleasure,said Troyplacing
his bag on the groundonly speak low, for somebody or
other may overhear us in the farmhouse there.

Well then -- I know a good deal concerning your Fanny
Robin's attachment to you. I may say, too, that I believe I
am the only person in the village, excepting Gabriel Oak,
who does know it. You ought to marry her.

I suppose I ought. Indeed, l wish to, but I cannot.

Why?

Troy was about to utter something hastily; he then checked
himself and saidI am too poor.His voice was changed.
Previously it had had a devil-may-care tone. It was the
voice of a trickster now.

Boldwood's present mood was not critical enough to notice
tones. He continuedI may as well speak plainly; and


understand, I don't wish to enter into the questions of
right or wrong, woman's honour and shame, or to express any
opinion on your conduct. I intend a business transaction
with you.

I see,said Troy. "Suppose we sit down here."

An old tree trunk lay under the hedge immediately opposite
and they sat down.

I was engaged to be married to Miss Everdene,said
Boldwoodbut you came and ----

Not engaged,said Troy.

As good as engaged.

If I had not turned up she might have become engaged to
you.

Hang might!

Would, then.

If you had not come I should certainly -- yes, CERTAINLY -have
been accepted by this time. If you had not seen her
you might have been married to Fanny. Well, there's too
much difference between Miss Everdene's station and your own
for this flirtation with her ever to benefit you by ending
in marriage. So all I ask is, don't molest her any more.
Marry Fanny. I'll make it worth your while.

How will you?

I'll pay you well now, I'll settle a sum of money upon her,
and I'll see that you don't suffer from poverty in the
future. I'll put it clearly. Bathsheba is only playing
with you: you are too poor for her as I said; so give up
wasting your time about a great match you'll never make for
a moderate and rightful match you may make to-morrow; take
up your carpet-bag, turn about, leave Weatherbury now, this
night, and you shall take fifty pounds with you. Fanny
shall have fifty to enable her to prepare for the wedding,
when you have told me where she is living, and she shall
have five hundred paid down on her wedding-day.

In making this statement Boldwood's voice revealed only too
clearly a consciousness of the weakness of his positionhis
aimsand his method. His manner had lapsed quite from that
of the firm and dignified Boldwood of former times; and such
a scheme as he had now engaged in he would have condemned as
childishly imbecile only a few months ago. We discern a
grand force in the lover which he lacks whilst a free man;
but there is a breadth of vision in the free man which in
the lover we vainly seek. Where there is much bias there
must be some narrownessand lovethough added emotionis
subtracted capacity. Boldwood exemplified this to an
abnormal degree: he knew nothing of Fanny Robin's
circumstances or whereaboutshe knew nothing of Troy's
possibilitiesyet that was what he said.

I like Fanny best,said Troy; "and ifas you sayMiss
Everdene is out of my reachwhy I have all to gain by
accepting your moneyand marrying Fan. But she's only a


servant."

Never mind -- do you agree to my arrangement?

I do.

Ah!said Boldwoodin a more elastic voice. "OhTroyif
you like her bestwhy then did you step in here and injure
my happiness?"

I love Fanny best now,said Troy. "But Bathsh ---- Miss
Everdene inflamed meand displaced Fanny for a time. It is
over now."

Why should it be over so soon? And why then did you come
here again?

There are weighty reasons. Fifty pounds at once, you
said!

I did,said Boldwoodand here they are -- fifty
sovereigns.He handed Troy a small packet.

You have everything ready -- it seems that you calculated
on my accepting them,said the sergeanttaking the packet.

I thought you might accept them,said Boldwood.

You've only my word that the programme shall be adhered to,
whilst I at any rate have fifty pounds.

I had thought of that, and I have considered that if I
can't appeal to your honour I can trust to your -- well,
shrewdness we'll call it -- not to lose five hundred pounds
in prospect, and also make a bitter enemy of a man who is
willing to be an extremely useful friend.

Stop, listen!said Troy in a whisper.

A light pit-pat was audible upon the road just above them.

By George -- 'tis she,he continued. "I must go on and
meet her."

She -- who?

Bathsheba.

Bathsheba -- out alone at this time o' night!said
Boldwood in amazementand starting up. "Why must you meet
her?"

She was expecting me to-night -- and I must now speak to
her, and wish her good-bye, according to your wish.

I don't see the necessity of speaking.

It can do no harm -- and she'll be wandering about looking
for me if I don't. You shall hear all I say to her. It
will help you in your love-making when I am gone.

Your tone is mocking.

Oh no. And remember this, if she does not know what has


become of me, she will think more about me than if I tell
her flatly I have come to give her up.

Will you confine your words to that one point? -- Shall I
hear every word you say?

Every word. Now sit still there, and hold my carpet bag
for meand mark what you hear."

The light footstep came closerhalting occasionallyas if
the walker listened for a sound. Troy whistled a double
note in a softfluty tone.

Come to that, is it!murmured Boldwooduneasily.

You promised silence,said Troy.

I promise again.

Troy stepped forward.

Frank, dearest, is that you?The tones were Bathsheba's.

O God!said Boldwood.

Yes,said Troy to her.

How late you are,she continuedtenderly. "Did you come
by the carrier? I listened and heard his wheels entering
the villagebut it was some time agoand I had almost
given you upFrank."

I was sure to come,said Frank. "You knew I shoulddid
you not?"

Well, I thought you would,she saidplayfully; "and
Frankit is so lucky! There's not a soul in my house but
me to-night. I've packed them all off so nobody on earth
will know of your visit to your lady's bower. Liddy wanted
to go to her grandfather's to tell him about her holiday
and I said she might stay with them till to-morrow -- when
you'll be gone again."

Capital,said Troy. "Butdear meI had better go back
for my bagbecause my slippers and brush and comb are in
it; you run home whilst I fetch itand I'll promise to be
in your parlour in ten minutes."

Yes.She turned and tripped up the hill again.

During the progress of this dialogue there was a nervous
twitching of Boldwood's tightly closed lipsand his face
became bathed in a clammy dew. He now started forward
towards Troy. Troy turned to him and took up the bag.

Shall I tell her I have come to give her up and cannot
marry her?said the soldiermockingly.

No, no; wait a minute. I want to say more to you -- more
to you!said Boldwoodin a hoarse whisper.

Now,said Troyyou see my dilemma. Perhaps I am a bad
man -- the victim of my impulses -- led away to do what I
ought to leave undone. I can't, however, marry them both.


And I have two reasons for choosing Fanny. First, I like
her best upon the whole, and second, you make it worth my
while.

At the same instant Boldwood sprang upon himand held him
by the neck. Troy felt Boldwood's grasp slowly tightening.
The move was absolutely unexpected.

A moment,he gasped. "You are injuring her you love!"

Well, what do you mean?said the farmer.

Give me breath,said Troy.

Boldwood loosened his handsayingBy Heaven, I've a mind
to kill you!

And ruin her.

Save her.

Oh, how can she be saved now, unless I marry her?

Boldwood groaned. He reluctantly released the soldierand
flung him back against the hedge. "Devilyou torture me!"
said he.

Troy rebounded like a balland was about to make a dash at
the farmer; but he checked himselfsaying lightly -


It is not worth while to measure my strength with you.
Indeed it is a barbarous way of settling a quarrel. I shall
shortly leave the army because of the same conviction. Now
after that revelation of how the land lies with Bathsheba,
'twould be a mistake to kill me, would it not?

'Twould be a mistake to kill you,repeated Boldwood
mechanicallywith a bowed head.

Better kill yourself.

Far better.

I'm glad you see it.

Troy, make her your wife, and don't act upon what I
arranged just now. The alternative is dreadful, but take
Bathsheba; I give her up! She must love you indeed to sell
soul and body to you so utterly as she has done. Wretched
woman -- deluded woman -- you are, Bathsheba!

But about Fanny?

Bathsheba is a woman well to do,continued Boldwoodin
nervous anxietyandTroyshe will make a good wife; and
indeedshe is worth your hastening on your marriage with
her!"

But she has a will -- not to say a temper, and I shall be a
mere slave to her. I could do anything with poor Fanny
Robin.

Troy,said BoldwoodimploringlyI'll do anything for
you, only don't desert her; pray don't desert her, Troy.


Which, poor Fanny?

No; Bathsheba Everdene. Love her best! Love her tenderly!
How shall I get you to see how advantageous it will be to
you to secure her at once?

I don't wish to secure her in any new way.

Boldwood's arm moved spasmodically towards Troy's person
again. He repressed the instinctand his form drooped as
with pain.

Troy went on -


I shall soon purchase my discharge, and then ----

But I wish you to hasten on this marriage! It will be
better for you both. You love each other, and you must let
me help you to do it.

How?

Why, by settling the five hundred on Bathsheba instead of
Fanny, to enable you to marry at once. No; she wouldn't
have it of me. I'll pay it down to you on the wedding-day.

Troy paused in secret amazement at Boldwood's wild
infatuation. He carelessly saidAnd am I to have anything
now?

Yes, if you wish to. But I have not much additional money
with me. I did not expect this; but all I have is yours.

Boldwoodmore like a somnambulist than a wakeful man
pulled out the large canvas bag he carried by way of a
purseand searched it.

I have twenty-one pounds more with me,he said. "Two
notes and a sovereign. But before I leave you I must have a
paper signed ----"

Pay me the money, and we'll go straight to her parlour, and
make any arrangement you please to secure my compliance with
your wishes. But she must know nothing of this cash
business.

Nothing, nothing,said Boldwoodhastily. "Here is the
sumand if you'll come to my house we'll write out the
agreement for the remainderand the terms also."

First we'll call upon her.

But why? Come with me to-night, and go with me to-morrow
to the surrogate's.

But she must be consulted; at any rate informed.

Very well; go on.

They went up the hill to Bathsheba's house. When they stood
at the entranceTroy saidWait here a moment.Opening
the doorhe glided insideleaving the door ajar.


Boldwood waited. In two minutes a light appeared in the
passage. Boldwood then saw that the chain had been fastened
across the door. Troy appeared insidecarrying a bedroom
candlestick.

What, did you think I should break in?said Boldwood
contemptuously.

Oh, no, it is merely my humour to secure things. Will you
read this a moment? I'll hold the light.

Troy handed a folded newspaper through the slit between door
and doorpostand put the candle close. "That's the
paragraph he said, placing his finger on a line.

Boldwood looked and read -


MARRIAGES.

On the 17th inst., at St. Ambrose's Church, Bath, by the
Rev. G. Mincing, B.A., Francis Troy, only son of the late
Edward Troy, Esq., M.D., of Weatherbury, and sergeant with
Dragoon Guards, to Bathsheba, only surviving daughter of the
late Mr. John Everdene, of Casterbridge.

This may be called Fort meeting Feeble, hey, Boldwood?
said Troy. A low gurgle of derisive laughter followed the
words.

The paper fell from Boldwood's hands. Troy continued -


Fifty pounds to marry Fanny. Good. Twenty-one pounds not
to marry Fanny, but Bathsheba. Good. Finale: already
Bathsheba's husband. Now, Boldwood, yours is the ridiculous
fate which always attends interference between a man and his
wife. And another word. Bad as I am, I am not such a
villain as to make the marriage or misery of any woman a
matter of huckster and sale. Fanny has long ago left me. I
don't know where she is. I have searched everywhere.
Another word yet. You say you love Bathsheba; yet on the
merest apparent evidence you instantly believe in her
dishonour. A fig for such love! Now that I've taught you a
lesson, take your money back again.

I will not; I will not!said Boldwoodin a hiss.

Anyhow I won't have it,said Troycontemptuously. He
wrapped the packet of gold in the notesand threw the whole
into the road.

Boldwood shook his clenched fist at him. "You juggler of
Satan! You black hound! But I'll punish you yet; mark me
I'll punish you yet!"

Another peal of laughter. Troy then closed the doorand
locked himself in.

Throughout the whole of that night Boldwood's dark form
maight have been seen walking about hills and downs of
Weatherbury like an unhappy Shade in the Mournful Fields by
Acheron.


CHAPTER XXXV

AT AN UPPER WINDOW

IT was very early the next morning -- a time of sun and dew.
The confused beginnings of many birds' songs spread into the
healthy airand the wan blue of the heaven was here and
there coated with thin webs of incorporeal cloud which were
of no effect in obscuring day. All the lights in the scene
were yellow as to colourand all the shadows were
attenuated as to form. The creeping plants about the old
manor-house were bowed with rows of heavy water dropswhich
had upon objects behind them the effect of minute lenses of
high magnifying power.

Just before the clock struck five Gabriel Oak and Coggan
passed the village crossand went on together to the
fields. They were yet barely in view of their mistress's
housewhen Oak fancied he saw the opening of a casement in
one of the upper windows. The two men were at this moment
partially screened by an elder bushnow beginning to be
enriched with black bunches of fruitand they paused before
emerging from its shade.

A handsome man leaned idly from the lattice. He looked east
and then westin the manner of one who makes a first
morning survey. The man was Sergeant Troy. His red jacket
was loosely thrown onbut not buttonedand he had
altogether the relaxed bearing of a soldier taking his ease.

Coggan spoke firstlooking quietly at the window.

She has married him!he said.

Gabriel had previously beheld the sightand he now stood
with his back turnedmaking no reply.

I fancied we should know something to-day,continued
Coggan. "I heard wheels pass my door just after dark -- you
were out somewhere." He glanced round upon Gabriel. "Good
heavens above usOakhow white your face is; you look like
a corpse!"

Do I?said Oakwith a faint smile.

Lean on the gate: I'll wait a bit.

All right, all right.

They stood by the gate awhileGabriel listlessly staring at
the ground. His mind sped into the futureand saw there
enacted in years of leisure the scenes of repentance that
would ensue from this work of haste. That they were married
he had instantly decided. Why had it been so mysteriously
managed? It had become known that she had had a fearful
journey to Bathowing to her miscalculating the distance:
that the horse had broken downand that she had been more
than two days getting there. It was not Bathsheba's way to
do things furtively. With all her faultsshe was candour
itself. Could she have been entrapped? The union was not
only an unutterable grief to him: it amazed him


notwithstanding that he had passed the preceding week in a
suspicion that such might be the issue of Troy's meeting her
away from home. Her quiet return with Liddy had to some
extent dispersed the dread. Just as that imperceptible
motion which appears like stillness is infinitely divided in
its properties from stillness itselfso had his hope
undistinguishable from despair differed from despair indeed.

In a few minutes they moved on again towards the house. The
sergeant still looked from the window.

Morning, comrades!he shoutedin a cheery voicewhen
they came up.

Coggan replied to the greeting. "Bain't ye going to answer
the man?" he then said to Gabriel. "I'd say good morning -you
needn't spend a hapenny of meaning upon itand yet keep
the man civil."

Gabriel soon decided too thatsince the deed was doneto
put the best face upon the matter would be the greatest
kindness to her he loved.

Good morning, Sergeant Troy,he returnedin a ghastly
voice.

A rambling, gloomy house this,said Troysmiling.

Why -- they may not be married!suggested Coggan.
Perhaps she's not there.

Gabriel shook his head. The soldier turned a little towards
the eastand the sun kindled his scarlet coat to an orange
glow.

But it is a nice old house,responded Gabriel.

Yes -- I suppose so; but I feel like new wine in an old
bottle here. My notion is that sash-windows should be put
throughout, and these old wainscoted walls brightened up a
bit; or the oak cleared quite away, and the walls papered.

It would be a pity, I think.

Well, no. A philosopher once said in my hearing that the
old builders, who worked when art was a living thing, had no
respect for the work of builders who went before them, but
pulled down and altered as they thought fit; and why
shouldn't we? 'Creation and preservation don't do well
together,' says he, 'and a million of antiquarians can't
invent a style.' My mind exactly. I am for making this
place more modern, that we may be cheerful whilst we can.

The military man turned and surveyed the interior of the
roomto assist his ideas of improvement in this direction.
Gabriel and Coggan began to move on.

Oh, Coggan,said Troyas if inspired by a recollection
do you know if insanity has ever appeared in Mr. Boldwood's
family?

Jan reflected for a moment.

I once heard that an uncle of his was queer in his head,


but I don't know the rights o't,he said.

It is of no importance,said Troylightly. "WellI
shall be down in the fields with you some time this week;
but I have a few matters to attend to first. So good-day to
you. We shallof coursekeep on just as friendly terms as
usual. I'm not a proud man: nobody is ever able to say
that of Sergeant Troy. Howeverwhat is must beand here's
half-a-crown to drink my healthmen."

Troy threw the coin dexterously across the front plot and
over the fence towards Gabrielwho shunned it in its fall
his face turning to an angry red. Coggan twirled his eye
edged forwardand caught the money in its ricochet upon the
road.

Very well -- you keep it, Coggan,said Gabriel with
disdain and almost fiercely. "As for meI'll do with-out
gifts from him!"

Don't show it too much,said Cogganmusingly. "For if
he's married to hermark my wordshe'll buy his discharge
and be our master here. Therefore 'tis well to say 'Friend'
outwardlythough you say 'Troublehouse' within."

Well -- perhaps it is best to be silent; but I can't go
further than that. I can't flatter, and if my place here is
only to be kept by smoothing him down, my place must be
lost.

A horsemanwhom they had for some time seen in the
distancenow appeared close beside them.

There's Mr. Boldwood,said Oak. "I wonder what Troy meant
by his question."

Coggan and Oak nodded respectfully to the farmerjust
checked their paces to discover if they were wantedand
finding they were not stood back to let him pass on.

The only signs of the terrible sorrow Boldwood had been
combating through the nightand was combating nowwere the
want of colour in his well-defined facethe enlarged
appearance of the veins in his forehead and templesand the
sharper lines about his mouth. The horse bore him awayand
the very step of the animal seemed significant of dogged
despair. Gabrielfor a minuterose above his own grief in
noticing Boldwood's. He saw the square figure sitting erect
upon the horsethe head turned to neither sidethe elbows
steady by the hipsthe brim of the hat level and
undisturbed in its onward glideuntil the keen edges of
Boldwood's shape sank by degrees over the hill. To one who
knew the man and his story there was something more striking
in this immobility than in a collapse. The clash of discord
between mood and matter here was forced painfully home to
the heart; andas in laughter there are more dreadful
phases than in tearsso was there in the steadiness of this
agonized man an expression deeper than a cry.

CHAPTER XXXVI

WEALTH IN JEOPARDY -- THE REVEL


ONE nightat the end of Augustwhen Bathsheba's
experiences as a married woman were still newand when the
weather was yet dry and sultrya man stood motionless in
the stockyard of Weatherbury Upper Farmlooking at the moon
and sky.

The night had a sinister aspect. A heated breeze from the
south slowly fanned the summits of lofty objectsand in the
sky dashes of buoyant cloud were sailing in a course at
right angles to that of another stratumneither of them in
the direction of the breeze below. The moonas seen
through these filmshad a lurid metallic look. The fields
were sallow with the impure lightand all were tinged in
monochromeas if beheld through stained glass. The same
evening the sheep had trailed homeward head to tailthe
behaviour of the rooks had been confusedand the horses had
moved with timidity and caution.

Thunder was imminentandtaking some secondary appearances
into considerationit was likely to be followed by one of
the lengthened rains which mark the close of dry weather for
the season. Before twelve hours had passed a harvest
atmosphere would be a bygone thing.

Oak gazed with misgiving at eight naked and unprotected
ricksmassive and heavy with the rich produce of one-half
the farm for that year. He went on to the barn.

This was the night which had been selected by Sergeant Troy
-- ruling now in the room of his wife -- for giving the
harvest supper and dance. As Oak approached the building
the sound of violins and a tambourineand the regular
jigging of many feetgrew more distinct. He came close to
the large doorsone of which stood slightly ajarand
looked in.

The central spacetogether with the recess at one endwas
emptied of all incumbrancesand this areacovering about
two-thirds of the wholewas appropriated for the gathering
the remaining endwhich was piled to the ceiling with oats
being screened off with sail-cloth. Tufts and garlands of
green foliage decorated the wallsbeamsand extemporized
chandeliersand immediately opposite to Oak a rostrum had
been erectedbearing a table and chairs. Here sat three
fiddlersand beside them stood a frantic man with his hair
on endperspiration streaming down his cheeksand a
tambourine quivering in his hand.

The dance endedand on the black oak floor in the midst a
new row of couples formed for another.

Now, ma'am, and no offence I hope, I ask what dance you
would like next?said the first violin.

Really, it makes no difference,said the clear voice of
Bathshebawho stood at the inner end of the building
observing the scene from behind a table covered with cups
and viands. Troy was lolling beside her.

Then,said the fiddlerI'll venture to name that the
right and proper thing is The Soldier's Joy" -- there being
a gallant soldier married into the farm -- heymy sonnies


and gentlemen all?"

It shall be The Soldier's Joy exclaimed a chorus.

Thanks for the compliment said the sergeant gaily, taking
Bathsheba by the hand and leading her to the top of the
dance. For though I have purchased my discharge from Her
Most Gracious Majesty's regiment of cavalry the 11th Dragoon
Guardsto attend to the new duties awaiting me hereI
shall continue a soldier in spirit and feeling as long as I
live."

So the dance began. As to the merits of "The Soldier's
Joy there cannot be, and never were, two opinions. It has
been observed in the musical circles of Weatherbury and its
vicinity that this melody, at the end of three-quarters of
an hour of thunderous footing, still possesses more
stimulative properties for the heel and toe than the
majority of other dances at their first opening. The
Soldier's Joy" hastooan additional charmin being so
admirably adapted to the tambourine aforesaid -- no mean
instrument in the hands of a performer who understands the
proper convulsionsspasmsSt. Vitus's dancesand fearful
frenzies necessary when exhibiting its tones in their
highest perfection.

The immortal tune endeda fine DD rolling forth from the
bass-viol with the sonorousness of a cannonadeand Gabriel
delayed his entry no longer. He avoided Bathshebaand got
as near as possible to the platformwhere Sergeant Troy was
now seateddrinking brandy-and-waterthough the others
drank without exception cider and ale. Gabriel could not
easily thrust himself within speaking distance of the
sergeantand he sent a messageasking him to come down for
a moment. The sergeant said he could not attend.

Will you tell him, then,said Gabrielthat I only
stepped ath'art to say that a heavy rain is sure to fall
soon, and that something should be done to protect the
ricks?

Mr. Troy says it will not rain,returned the messenger
and he cannot stop to talk to you about such fidgets.

In juxtaposition with TroyOak had a melancholy tendency to
look like a candle beside gasand ill at easehe went out
againthinking he would go home; forunder the
circumstanceshe had no heart for the scene in the barn.
At the door he paused for a moment: Troy was speaking.

Friends, it is not only the harvest home that we are
celebrating to-night; but this is also a Wedding Feast. A
short time ago I had the happiness to lead to the altar this
lady, your mistress, and not until now have we been able to
give any public flourish to the event in Weatherbury. That
it may be thoroughly well done, and that every man may go
happy to bed, I have ordered to be brought here some bottles
of brandy and kettles of hot water. A treble-strong goblet
will he handed round to each guest.

Bathsheba put her hand upon his armandwith upturned pale
facesaid imploringlyNo -- don't give it to them -- pray
don't, Frank! It will only do them harm: they have had
enough of everything.


True -- we don't wish for no more, thank ye,said one or
two.

Pooh!said the sergeant contemptuouslyand raised his
voice as if lighted up by a new idea. "Friends he said,
we'll send the women-folk home! 'Tis time they were in bed.
Then we cockbirds will have a jolly carouse to ourselves! If
any of the men show the white featherlet them look
elsewhere for a winter's work."

Bathsheba indignantly left the barnfollowed by all the
women and children. The musiciansnot looking upon
themselves as "company slipped quietly away to their
spring waggon and put in the horse. Thus Troy and the men
on the farm were left sole occupants of the place. Oak, not
to appear unnecessarily disagreeable, stayed a little while;
then he, too, arose and quietly took his departure, followed
by a friendly oath from the sergeant for not staying to a
second round of grog.

Gabriel proceeded towards his home. In approaching the
door, his toe kicked something which felt and sounded soft,
leathery, and distended, like a boxing-glove. It was a
large toad humbly travelling across the path. Oak took it
up, thinking it might be better to kill the creature to save
it from pain; but finding it uninjured, he placed it again
among the grass. He knew what this direct message from the
Great Mother meant. And soon came another.

When he struck a light indoors there appeared upon the table
a thin glistening streak, as if a brush of varnish had been
lightly dragged across it. Oak's eyes followed the
serpentine sheen to the other side, where it led up to a
huge brown garden-slug, which had come indoors to-night for
reasons of its own. It was Nature's second way of hinting
to him that he was to prepare for foul weather.

Oak sat down meditating for nearly an hour. During this
time two black spiders, of the kind common in thatched
houses, promenaded the ceiling, ultimately dropping to the
floor. This reminded him that if there was one class of
manifestation on this matter that he thoroughly understood,
it was the instincts of sheep. He left the room, ran across
two or three fields towards the flock, got upon a hedge, and
looked over among them.

They were crowded close together on the other side around
some furze bushes, and the first peculiarity observable was
that, on the sudden appearance of Oak's head over the fence,
they did not stir or run away. They had now a terror of
something greater than their terror of man. But this was
not the most noteworthy feature: they were all grouped in
such a way that their tails, without a single exception,
were towards that half of the horizon from which the storm
threatened. There was an inner circle closely huddled, and
outside these they radiated wider apart, the pattern formed
by the flock as a whole not being unlike a vandyked lace
collar, to which the clump of furze-bushes stood in the
position of a wearer's neck.

This was enough to re-establish him in his original opinion.
He knew now that he was right, and that Troy was wrong.
Every voice in nature was unanimous in bespeaking change.


But two distinct translations attached to these dumb
expressions. Apparently there was to be a thunder-storm,
and afterwards a cold continuous rain. The creeping things
seemed to know all about the later rain, hut little of the
interpolated thunder-storm; whilst the sheep knew all about
the thunder-storm and nothing of the later rain.

This complication of weathers being uncommon, was all the
more to be feared. Oak returned to the stack-yard. All was
silent here, and the conical tips of the ricks jutted darkly
into the sky. There were five wheat-ricks in this yard, and
three stacks of barley. The wheat when threshed would
average about thirty quarters to each stack; the barley, at
least forty. Their value to Bathsheba, and indeed to
anybody, Oak mentally estimated by the following simple
calculation: -


5 x 30 = 150 quarters = 500 L.
3 x 40 = 120 quarters = 250 L.
-------
Total . . 750 L.


Seven hundred and fifty pounds in the divinest form that
money can wear -- that of necessary food for man and beast:
should the risk be run of deteriorating this bulk of corn to
less than half its value, because of the instability of a
woman? Neverif I can prevent it!" said Gabriel.

Such was the argument that Oak set outwardly before him.
But maneven to himselfis a palimpsesthaving an
ostensible writingand another beneath the lines. It is
possible that there was this golden legend under the
utilitarian one: "I will help to my last effort the woman I
have loved so dearly."

He went back to the barn to endeavour to obtain assistance
for covering the ricks that very night. All was silent
withinand he would have passed on in the belief that the
party had broken uphad not a dim lightyellow as saffron
by contrast with the greenish whiteness outsidestreamed
through a knot-hole in the folding doors.

Gabriel looked in. An unusual picture met his eye.

The candles suspended among the evergreens had burnt down to
their socketsand in some cases the leaves tied about them
were scorched. Many of the lights had quite gone out
others smoked and stankgrease dropping from them upon the
floor. Hereunder the tableand leaning against forms and
chairs in every conceivable attitude except the
perpendicularwere the wretched persons of all the workfolk
the hair of their heads at such low levels being
suggestive of mops and brooms. In the midst of these shone
red and distinct the figure of Sergeant Troyleaning back
in a chair. Coggan was on his backwith his mouth open
huzzing forth snoresas were several others; the united
breathings of the horizonal assemblage forming a subdued
roar like London from a distance. Joseph Poorgrass was
curled round in the fashion of a hedge-hogapparently in
attempts to present the least possible portion of his
surface to the air; and behind him was dimly visible an
unimportant remnant of William Smallbury. The glasses and


cups still stood upon the tablea water-jug being
overturnedfrom which a small rillafter tracing its
course with marvellous precision down the centre of the long
tablefell into the neck of the unconscious Mark Clarkin
a steadymonotonous driplike the dripping of a stalactite
in a cave.

Gabriel glanced hopelessly at the groupwhichwith one or
two exceptionscomposed all the able-bodied men upon the
farm. He saw at once that if the ricks were to be saved
that nightor even the next morninghe must save them with
his own hands.

A faint "ting-ting" resounded from under Coggan's waistcoat.
It was Coggan's watch striking the hour of two.

Oak went to the recumbent form of Matthew Moonwho usually
undertook the rough thatching of the home-steadand shook
him. The shaking was without effect.

Gabriel shouted in his earwhere's your thatching-beetle
and rick-stick and spars?

Under the staddles,said Moonmechanicallywith the
unconscious promptness of a medium.

Gabriel let go his headand it dropped upon the floor like
a bowl. He then went to Susan Tall's husband.

Where's the key of the granary?

No answer. The question was repeatedwith the same result.
To be shouted to at night was evidently less of a novelty to
Susan Tall's husband than to Matthew Moon. Oak flung down
Tall's head into the corner again and turned away.

To be justthe men were not greatly to blame for this
painful and demoralizing termination to the evening's
entertainment. Sergeant Troy had so strenuously insisted
glass in handthat drinking should be the bond of their
unionthat those who wished to refuse hardly liked to be so
unmannerly under the circumstances. Having from their youth
up been entirely unaccustomed to any liquor stronger than
cider or mild aleit was no wonder that they had succumbed
one and allwith extraordinary uniformityafter the lapse
of about an hour.

Gabriel was greatly depressed. This debauch boded ill for
that wilful and fascinating mistress whom the faithful man
even now felt within him as the embodiment of all that was
sweet and bright and hopeless.

He put out the expiring lightsthat the barn might not be
endangeredclosed the door upon the men in their deep and
oblivious sleepand went again into the lone night. A hot
breezeas if breathed from the parted lips of some dragon
about to swallow the globefanned him from the southwhile
directly opposite in the north rose a grim misshapen body of
cloudin the very teeth of the wind. So unnaturally did it
rise that one could fancy it to be lifted by machinery from
below. Meanwhile the faint cloudlets had flown back into
the south-east corner of the skyas if in terror of the
large cloudlike a young brood gazed in upon by some
monster.


Going on to the villageOak flung a small stone against the
window of Laban Tall's bedroomexpecting Susan to open it;
but nobody stirred. He went round to the back doorwhich
had been left unfastened for Laban's entryand passed in to
the foot of the stair-case.

Mrs. Tall, I've come for the key of the granary, to get at
the rick-cloths,said Oakin a stentorian voice.

Is that you?said Mrs. Susan Tallhalf awake.

Yes,said Gabriel.

Come along to bed, do, you drawlatching rogue -- keeping a
body awake like this!

It isn't Laban -- 'tis Gabriel Oak. I want the key of the
granary.

Gabriel! What in the name of fortune did you pretend to be
Laban for?

I didn't. I thought you meant ----

Yes you did! what do you want here?

The key of the granary.

Take it then. 'Tis on the nail. People coming disturbing
women at this time of night ought ----

Gabriel took the keywithout waiting to hear the conclusion
of the tirade. Ten minutes later his lonely figure might
have been seen dragging four large water-proof coverings
across the yardand soon two of these heaps of treasure in
grain were covered snug -- two cloths to each. Two hundred
pounds were secured. Three wheat-stacks remained openand
there were no more cloths. Oak looked under the staddles
and found a fork. He mounted the third pile of wealth and
began operatingadopting the plan of sloping the upper
sheaves one over the other; andin additionfilling the
interstices with the material of some untied sheaves.

So far all was well. By this hurried contrivance
Bathsheba's property in wheat was safe for at any rate a
week or twoprovided always that there was not much wind.

Next came the barley. This it was only possible to protect
by systematic thatching. Time went onand the moon
vanished not to reappear. It was the farewell of the
ambassador previous to war. The night had a haggard look
like a sick thing; and there came finally an utter
expiration of air from the whole heaven in the form of a
slow breezewhich might have been likened to a death. And
now nothing was heard in the yard but the dull thuds of the
beetle which drove in the sparsand the rustle of thatch in
the intervals.

CHAPTER XXXVII

THE STORM -- THE TWO TOGETHER


A LIGHT flapped over the sceneas if reflected from
phosphorescent wings crossing the skyand a rumble filled
the air. It was the first move of the approaching storm.

The second peal was noisywith comparatively little visible
lightning. Gabriel saw a candle shining in Bathsheba's
bedroomand soon a shadow swept to and fro upon the blind.

Then there came a third flash. Manoeuvres of a most
extraordinary kind were going on in the vast firmamental
hollows overhead. The lightning now was the colour of
silverand gleamed in the heavens like a mailed army.
Rumbles became rattles. Gabriel from his elevated position
could see over the landscape at least half-a-dozen miles in
front. Every hedgebushand tree was distinct as in a
line engraving. In a paddock in the same direction was a
herd of heifersand the forms of these were visible at this
moment in the act of galloping about in the wildest and
maddest confusionflinging their heels and tails high into
the airtheir heads to earth. A poplar in the immediate
fore-ground was like an ink stroke on burnished tin. Then
the picture vanishedleaving the darkness so intense that
Gabriel worked entirely by feeling with his hands.

He had stuck his ricking-rodor poniardas it was
indifferently called -- a long iron lancepolished by
handling -- into the stackused to support the sheaves
instead of the support called a groom used on houses. A blue
light appeared in the zenithand in some indescribable
manner flickered down near the top of the rod. It was the
fourth of the larger flashes. A moment later and there was
a smack -- smartclearand shortGabriel felt his
position to be anything but a safe oneand he resolved to
descend.

Not a drop of rain had fallen as yet. He wiped his weary
browand looked again at the black forms of the unprotected
stacks. Was his life so valuable to him after all? What
were his prospects that he should be so chary of running
riskwhen important and urgent labour could not be carried
on without such risk? He resolved to stick to the stack.
Howeverhe took a precaution. Under the staddles was a
long tethering chainused to prevent the escape of errant
horses. This he carried up the ladderand sticking his rod
through the clog at one endallowed the other end of the
chain to trail upon the ground The spike attached to it he
drove in. Under the shadow of this extemporized lightning
conductor he felt himself comparatively safe.

Before Oak had laid his hands upon his tools again out leapt
the fifth flashwith the spring of a serpent and the shout
of a fiend. It was green as an emeraldand the
reverberation was stunning. What was this the light
revealed to him? In the open ground before himas he looked
over the ridge of the rickwas a dark and apparently female
form. Could it be that of the only venturesome woman in the
parish --Bathsheba? The form moved on a step: then he
could see no more.

Is that you, ma'am?said Gabriel to the darkness.

Who is there?said the voice of Bathsheba.


Gabriel. I am on the rick, thatching.

Oh, Gabriel! -- and are you? I have come about them. The
weather awoke me, and I thought of the corn. I am so
distressed about it -- can we save it anyhow? I cannot find
my husband. Is he with you?

He is not here."

Do you know where he is?

Asleep in the barn.

He promised that the stacks should be seen to, and now they
are all neglected! Can I do anything to help? Liddy is
afraid to come out. Fancy finding you here at such an hour!
Surely I can do something?

You can bring up some reed-sheaves to me, one by one,
ma'am; if you are not afraid to come up the ladder in the
dark,said Gabriel. "Every moment is precious nowand
that would save a good deal of time. It is not very dark
when the lightning has been gone a bit."

I'll do anything!she saidresolutely. She instantly
took a sheaf upon her shoulderclambered up close to his
heelsplaced it behind the rodand descended for another.
At her third ascent the rick suddenly brightened with the
brazen glare of shining majolica -- every knot in every
straw was visible. On the slope in front of him appeared
two human shapesblack as jet. The rick lost its sheen -the
shapes vanished. Gabriel turned his head. It had been
the sixth flash which had come from the east behind himand
the two dark forms on the slope had been the shadows of
himself and Bathsheba.

Then came the peal. It hardly was credible that such a
heavenly light could be the parent of such a diabolical
sound.

How terrible!she exclaimedand clutched him by the
sleeve. Gabriel turnedand steadied her on her aerial
perch by holding her arm. At the same momentwhile he was
still reversed in his attitudethere was more lightand he
sawas it werea copy of the tall poplar tree on the hill
drawn in black on the wall of the barn. It was the shadow
of that treethrown across by a secondary flash in the
west.

The next flare came. Bathsheba was on the ground now
shouldering another sheafand she bore its dazzle without
flinching -- thunder and all -- and again ascended with the
load. There was then a silence everywhere for four or five
minutesand the crunch of the sparsas Gabriel hastily
drove them incould again be distinctly heard. He thought
the crisis of the storm had passed. But there came a burst
of light.

Hold on!said Gabrieltaking the sheaf from her shoulder
and grasping her arm again.

Heaven opened thenindeed. The flash was almost too novel
for its inexpressibly dangerous nature to be at once


realizedand they could only comprehend the magnificence of
its beauty. It sprang from eastwestnorthsouthand
was a perfect dance of death. The forms of skeletons
appeared in the airshaped with blue fire for bones -dancing
leapingstridingracing aroundand mingling
altogether in unparalleled confusion. With these were
intertwined undulating snakes of greenand behind these was
a broad mass of lesser light. Simultaneously came from
every part of the tumbling sky what may be called a shout;
sincethough no shout ever came near itit was more of the
nature of a shout than of anything else earthly. In the
meantime one of the grisly forms had alighted upon the point
of Gabriel's rodto run invisibly down itdown the chain
and into the earth. Gabriel was almost blindedand he
could feel Bathsheba's warm arm tremble in his hand -- a
sensation novel and thrilling enough; but lovelife
everything humanseemed small and trifling in such close
juxtaposition with an infuriated universe.

Oak had hardly time to gather up these impressions into a
thoughtand to see how strangely the red feather of her hat
shone in this lightwhen the tall tree on the hill before
mentioned seemed on fire to a white heatand a new one
among these terrible voices mingled with the last crash of
those preceding. It was a stupefying blastharsh and
pitilessand it fell upon their ears in a deadflat blow
without that reverberation which lends the tones of a drum
to more distant thunder. By the lustre reflected from every
part of the earth and from the wide domical scoop above it
he saw that the tree was sliced down the whole length of its
tallstraight stema huge riband of bark being apparently
flung off. The other portion remained erectand revealed
the bared surface as a strip of white down the front. The
lightning had struck the tree. A sulphurous smell filled
the air; then all was silentand black as a cave in Hinnom.

We had a narrow escape!said Gabrielhurriedly. "You had
better go down."

Bathsheba said nothing; but he could distinctly hear her
rhythmical pantsand the recurrent rustle of the sheaf
beside her in response to her frightened pulsations. She
descended the ladderandon second thoughtshe followed
her. The darkness was now impenetrable by the sharpest
vision. They both stood still at the bottomside by side.
Bathsheba appeared to think only of the weather -- Oak
thought only of her just then. At last he said -


The storm seems to have passed now, at any rate.

I think so too,said Bathsheba. "Though there are
multitudes of gleamslook!"

The sky was now filled with an incessant lightfrequent
repetition melting into complete continuityas an unbroken
sound results from the successive strokes on a gong.

Nothing serious,said he. "I cannot understand no rain
falling. But Heaven be praisedit is all the better for
us. I am now going up again."

Gabriel, you are kinder than I deserve! I will stay and
help you yet. Oh, why are not some of the others here!


They would have been here if they could,said Oakin a
hesitating way.

O, I know it all -- all,she saidadding slowly: "They
are all asleep in the barnin a drunken sleepand my
husband among them. That's itis it not? Don't think I am
a timid woman and can't endure things."

I am not certain,said Gabriel. "I will go and see

He crossed to the barn, leaving her there alone. He looked
through the chinks of the door. All was in total darkness,
as he had left it, and there still arose, as at the former
time, the steady buzz of many snores.

He felt a zephyr curling about his cheek, and turned. It
was Bathsheba's breath -- she had followed him, and was
looking into the same chink.

He endeavoured to put off the immediate and painful subject
of their thoughts by remarking gently, If you'll come back
againmiss -- ma'amand hand up a few more; it would save
much time."

Then Oak went back againascended to the topstepped off
the ladder for greater expeditionand went on thatching.
She followedbut without a sheaf.

Gabriel,she saidin a strange and impressive voice.

Oak looked up at her. She had not spoken since he left the
barn. The soft and continual shimmer of the dying lightning
showed a marble face high against the black sky of the
opposite quarter. Bathsheba was sitting almost on the apex
of the stackher feet gathered up beneath herand resting
on the top round of the ladder.

Yes, mistress,he said.

I suppose you thought that when I galloped away to Bath
that night it was on purpose to be married?

I did at last -- not at first,he answeredsomewhat
surprised at the abruptness with which this new subject was
broached.

And others thought so, too?

Yes.

And you blamed me for it?

Well -- a little.

I thought so. Now, I care a little for your good opinion,
and I want to explain something -- I have longed to do it
ever since I returned, and you looked so gravely at me. For
if I were to die -- and I may die soon -- it would be
dreadful that you should always think mistakenly of me.
Now, listen.

Gabriel ceased his rustling.

I went to Bath that night in the full intention of breaking


off my engagement to Mr. Troy. It was owing to
circumstances which occurred after I got there that -- that
we were married. Now, do you see the matter in a new
light?

I do -- somewhat.

I must, I suppose, say more, now that I have begun. And
perhaps it's no harm, for you are certainly under no
delusion that I ever loved you, or that I can have any
object in speaking, more than that object I have mentioned.
Well, I was alone in a strange city, and the horse was lame.
And at last I didn't know what to do. I saw, when it was
too late, that scandal might seize hold of me for meeting
him alone in that way. But I was coming away, when he
suddenly said he had that day seen a woman more beautiful
than I, and that his constancy could not be counted on
unless I at once became his.... And I was grieved and
troubled ----She cleared her voiceand waited a moment
as if to gather breath. "And thenbetween jealousy and
distractionI married him!" she whispered with desperate
impetuosity.

Gabriel made no reply.

He was not to blame, for it was perfectly true about -about
his seeing somebody else,she quickly added. "And
now I don't wish for a single remark from you upon the
subject -- indeedI forbid it. I only wanted you to know
that misunderstood bit of my history before a time comes
when you could never know it. -- You want some more
sheaves?"

She went down the ladderand the work proceeded. Gabriel
soon perceived a languor in the movements of his mistress up
and downand he said to hergently as a mother -


I think you had better go indoors now, you are tired. I
can finish the rest alone. If the wind does not change the
rain is likely to keep off.

If I am useless I will go,said Bathshebain a flagging
cadence. "But Oif your life should be lost!"

You are not useless; but I would rather not tire you
longer. You have done well.

And you better!she saidgratefully. Thank you for your
devotiona thousand timesGabriel! Goodnight -- I know you
are doing your very best for me."

She diminished in the gloomand vanishedand he heard the
latch of the gate fall as she passed through. He worked in
a reverie nowmusing upon her storyand upon the
contradictoriness of that feminine heart which had caused
her to speak more warmly to him to-night than she ever had
done whilst unmarried and free to speak as warmly as she
chose.

He was disturbed in his meditation by a grating noise from
the coach-house. It was the vane on the roof turning round
and this change in the wind was the signal for a disastrous
rain.


CHAPTER XXXVIII

RAIN -- ONE SOLITARY MEETS ANOTHER

IT was now five o'clockand the dawn was promising to break
in hues of drab and ash.

The air changed its temperature and stirred itself more
vigorously. Cool breezes coursed in transparent eddies
round Oak's face. The wind shifted yet a point or two and
blew stronger. In ten minutes every wind of heaven seemed
to be roaming at large. Some of the thatching on the wheatstacks
was now whirled fantastically aloftand had to be
replaced and weighted with some rails that lay near at hand.
This doneOak slaved away again at the barley. A huge drop
of rain smote his facethe wind snarled round every corner
the trees rocked to the bases of their trunksand the twigs
clashed in strife. Driving in spars at any point and on any
systeminch by inch he covered more and more safely from
ruin this distracting impersonation of seven hundred pounds.
The rain came on in earnestand Oak soon felt the water to
be tracking cold and clammy routes down his back.
Ultimately he was reduced well-nigh to a homogeneous sop
and the dyes of his clothes trickled down and stood in a
pool at the foot of the ladder. The rain stretched
obliquely through the dull atmosphere in liquid spines
unbroken in continuity between their beginnings in the
clouds and their points in him.

Oak suddenly remembered that eight months before this time
he had been fighting against fire in the same spot as
desperately as he was fighting against water now -- and for
a futile love of the same woman. As for her ---- But Oak
was generous and trueand dismissed his reflections.

It was about seven o'clock in the dark leaden morning when
Gabriel came down from the last stackand thankfully
exclaimedIt is done!He was drenchedwearyand sad
and yet not so sad as drenched and wearyfor he was cheered
by a sense of success in a good cause.

Faint sounds came from the barnand he looked that way.
Figures stepped singly and in pairs through the doors -- all
walking awkwardlyand abashedsave the foremostwho wore
a red jacketand advanced with his hands in his pockets
whistling. The others shambled after with a consciencestricken
air: the whole procession was not unlike Flaxman's
group of the suitors tottering on towards the infernal
regions under the conduct of Mercury. The gnarled shapes
passed into the villageTroytheir leaderentering the
farmhouse. Not a single one of them had turned his face to
the ricksor apparently bestowed one thought upon their
condition.

Soon Oak too went homewardby a different route from
theirs. In front of him against the wet glazed surface of
the lane he saw a person walking yet more slowly than
himself under an umbrella. The man turned and plainly
started; he was Boldwood.

How are you this morning, sir?said Oak.


Yes, it is a wet day. -- Oh, I am well, very well, I thank
you; quite well.

I am glad to hear it, sir.

Boldwood seemed to awake to the present by degrees. "You
look tired and illOak he said then, desultorily
regarding his companion.

I am tired. You look strangely alteredsir."

I? Not a bit of it: I am well enough. What put that into
your head?

I thought you didn't look quite so topping as you used to,
that was all.

Indeed, then you are mistaken,said Boldwoodshortly.
Nothing hurts me. My constitution is an iron one.

I've been working hard to get our ricks covered, and was
barely in time. Never had such a struggle in my life....
Yours of course are safe, sir.

Oh yes,Boldwood addedafter an interval of silence:
What did you ask, Oak?

Your ricks are all covered before this time?

No.

At any rate, the large ones upon the stone staddles?

They are not.

Them under the hedge?

No. I forgot to tell the thatcher to set about it.

Nor the little one by the stile?

Nor the little one by the stile. I overlooked the ricks
this year.

Then not a tenth of your corn will come to measure, sir.

Possibly not.

Overlooked them,repeated Gabriel slowly to himself. It
is difficult to describe the intensely dramatic effect that
announcement had upon Oak at such a moment. All the night
he had been feeling that the neglect he was labouring to
repair was abnormal and isolated -- the only instance of the
kind within the circuit of the county. Yet at this very
timewithin the same parisha greater waste had been going
onuncomplained of and disregarded. A few months earlier
Boldwood's forgetting his husbandry would have been as
preposterous an idea as a sailor forgetting he was in a
ship. Oak was just thinking that whatever he himself might
have suffered from Bathsheba's marriagehere was a man who
had suffered morewhen Boldwood spoke in a changed voice -that
of one who yearned to make a confidence and relieve his
heart by an outpouring.


Oak, you know as well as I that things have gone wrong with
me lately. I may as well own it. I was going to get a
little settled in life; but in some way my plan has come to
nothing.

I thought my mistress would have married you,said
Gabrielnot knowing enough of the full depths of Boldwood's
love to keep silence on the farmer's accountand determined
not to evade discipline by doing so on his own. "However
it is so sometimesand nothing happens that we expect he
added, with the repose of a man whom misfortune had inured
rather than subdued.

I daresay I am a joke about the parish said Boldwood, as
if the subject came irresistibly to his tongue, and with a
miserable lightness meant to express his indifference.

Oh no -- I don't think that."

-- But the real truth of the matter is that there was not,
as some fancy, any jilting on -- her part. No engagement
ever existed between me and Miss Everdene. People say so,
but it is untrue: she never promised me!Boldwood stood
still now and turned his wild face to Oak. "OhGabriel
he continued, I am weak and foolishand I don't know what
and I can't fend off my miserable grief! ... I had some
faint belief in the mercy of God till I lost that woman.
YesHe prepared a gourd to shade meand like the prophet I
thanked Him and was glad. But the next day He prepared a
worm to smite the gourd and wither it; and I feel it is
better to die than to live!"

A silence followed. Boldwood aroused himself from the
momentary mood of confidence into which he had driftedand
walked on againresuming his usual reserve.

No, Gabriel,he resumedwith a carelessness which was
like the smile on the countenance of a skull: "it was made
more of by other people than ever it was by us. I do feel a
little regret occasionallybut no woman ever had power over
me for any length of time. Wellgood morning; I can trust
you not to mention to others what has passed between us two
here."

CHAPTER XXXIX

COMING HOME -- A CRY

ON the turnpike roadbetween Casterbridge and Weatherbury
and about three miles from the former placeis Yalbury
Hillone of those steep long ascents which pervade the
highways of this undulating part of South Wessex. In
returning from market it is usual for the farmers and other
gig-gentry to alight at the bottom and walk up.

One Saturday evening in the month of October Bathsheba's
vehicle was duly creeping up this incline. She was sitting
listlessly in the second seat of the gigwhilst walking
beside her in farmer's marketing suit of unusually
fashionable cut was an erectwell-made young man. Though


on foothe held the reins and whipand occasionally aimed
light cuts at the horse's ear with the end of the lashas a
recreation. This man was her husbandformerly Sergeant
Troywhohaving bought his discharge with Bathsheba's
moneywas gradually transforming himself into a farmer of a
spirited and very modern school. People of unalterable
ideas still insisted upon calling him "Sergeant" when they
met himwhich was in some degree owing to his having still
retained the well-shaped moustache of his military daysand
the soldierly bearing inseparable from his form and
training.

Yes, if it hadn't been for that wretched rain I should have
cleared two hundred as easy as looking, my love,he was
saying. "Don't you seeit altered all the chances? To
speak like a book I once readwet weather is the narrative
and fine days are the episodesof our country's history;
nowisn't that true?"

But the time of year is come for changeable weather.

Well, yes. The fact is, these autumn races are the ruin of
everybody. Never did I see such a day as 'twas! 'Tis a wild
open place, just out of Budmouth, and a drab sea rolled in
towards us like liquid misery. Wind and rain -- good Lord!
Dark? Why, 'twas as black as my hat before the last race
was run. 'Twas five o'clock, and you couldn't see the
horses till they were almost in, leave alone colours. The
ground was as heavy as lead, and all judgment from a
fellow's experience went for nothing. Horses, riders,
people, were all blown about like ships at sea. Three
booths were blown over, and the wretched folk inside crawled
out upon their hands and knees; and in the next field were
as many as a dozen hats at one time. Ay, Pimpernel
regularly stuck fast, when about sixty yards off, and when I
saw Policy stepping on, it did knock my heart against the
lining of my ribs, I assure you, my love!

And you mean, Frank,said Bathshebasadly -- her voice
was painfully lowered from the fulness and vivacity of the
previous summer -- "that you have lost more than a hundred
pounds in a month by this dreadful horse-racing? OFrank
it is cruel; it is foolish of you to take away my money so.
We shall have to leave the farm; that will be the end of
it!"

Humbug about cruel. Now, there 'tis again -- turn on the
waterworks; that's just like you.

But you'll promise me not to go to Budmouth second meeting,
won't you?she implored. Bathsheba was at the full depth
for tearsbut she maintained a dry eye.

I don't see why I should; in fact, if it turns out to be a
fine day, I was thinking of taking you.

Never, never! I'll go a hundred miles the other way first.
I hate the sound of the very word!

But the question of going to see the race or staying at
home has very little to do with the matter. Bets are all
booked safely enough before the race begins, you may depend.
Whether it is a bad race for me or a good one, will have
very little to do with our going there next Monday.


But you don't mean to say that you have risked anything on
this one too!she exclaimedwith an agonized look.

There now, don't you be a little fool. Wait till you are
told. Why, Bathsheba, you have lost all the pluck and
sauciness you formerly had, and upon my life if I had known
what a chicken-hearted creature you were under all your
boldness, I'd never have -- I know what.

A flash of indignation might have been seen in Bathsheba's
dark eyes as she looked resolutely ahead after this reply.
They moved on without further speechsome early-withered
leaves from the trees which hooded the road at this spot
occasionally spinning downward across their path to the
earth.

A woman appeared on the brow of the hill. The ridge was in
a cuttingso that she was very near the husband and wife
before she became visible. Troy had turned towards the gig
to remountand whilst putting his foot on the step the
woman passed behind him.

Though the overshadowing trees and the approach of eventide
enveloped them in gloomBathsheba could see plainly enough
to discern the extreme poverty of the woman's garband the
sadness of her face.

Please, sir, do you know at what time Casterbridge Unionhouse
closes at night?

The woman said these words to Troy over his shoulder.

Troy started visibly at the sound of the voice; yet he
seemed to recover presence of mind sufficient to prevent
himself from giving way to his impulse to suddenly turn and
face her. He saidslowly -


I don't know.

The womanon hearing him speakquickly looked upexamined
the side of his faceand recognized the soldier under the
yeoman's garb. Her face was drawn into an expression which
had gladness and agony both among its elements. She uttered
an hysterical cryand fell down.

Oh, poor thing!exclaimed Bathshebainstantly preparing
to alight.

Stay where you are, and attend to the horse!said Troy
peremptorily throwing her the reins and the whip. "Walk the
horse to the top: I'll see to the woman."

But I ----

Do you hear? Clk -- Poppet!

The horsegigand Bathsheba moved on.

How on earth did you come here? I thought you were miles
away, or dead! Why didn't you write to me?said Troy to
the womanin a strangely gentleyet hurried voiceas he
lifted her up.


I feared to.

Have you any money?

None.

Good Heaven -- I wish I had more to give you! Here's -wretched
-- the merest trifle. It is every farthing I have
left. I have none but what my wife gives me, you know, and
I can't ask her now.

The woman made no answer.

I have only another moment,continued Troy; "and now
listen. Where are you going to-night? Casterbridge Union?"

Yes; I thought to go there.

You shan't go there; yet, wait. Yes, perhaps for to-night;
I can do nothing better -- worse luck! Sleep there to-night,
and stay there to-morrow. Monday is the first free day I
have; and on Monday morning, at ten exactly, meet me on
Grey's Bridge just out of the town. I'll bring all the
money I can muster. You shan't want -- I'll see that,
Fanny; then I'll get you a lodging somewhere. Good-bye till
then. I am a brute -- but good-bye!

After advancing the distance which completed the ascent of
the hillBathsheba turned her head. The woman was upon her
feetand Bathsheba saw her withdrawing from Troyand going
feebly down the hill by the third milestone from
Casterbridge. Troy then came on towards his wifestepped
into the gigtook the reins from her handand without
making any observation whipped the horse into a trot. He
was rather agitated.

Do you know who that woman was?said Bathshebalooking
searchingly into his face.

I do,he saidlooking boldly back into hers.

I thought you did,said shewith angry hauteurand still
regarding him. "Who is she?"

He suddenly seemed to think that frankness would benefit
neither of the women.

Nothing to either of us,he said. "I know her by sight."

What is her name?

How should I know her name?

I think you do.

Think if you will, and be ----The sentence was completed
by a smart cut of the whip round Poppet's flankwhich
caused the animal to start forward at a wild pace. No more
was said.

CHAPTER XL


ON CASTERBRIDGE HIGHWAY

FOR a considerable time the woman walked on. Her steps
became feeblerand she strained her eyes to look afar upon
the naked roadnow indistinct amid the penumbrae of night.
At length her onward walk dwindled to the merest totterand
she opened a gate within which was a haystack. Underneath
this she sat down and presently slept.

When the woman awoke it was to find herself in the depths of
a moonless and starless night. A heavy unbroken crust of
cloud stretched across the skyshutting out every speck of
heaven; and a distant halo which hung over the town of
Casterbridge was visible against the black concavethe
luminosity appearing the brighter by its great contrast with
the circumscribing darkness. Towards this weaksoft glow
the woman turned her eyes.

If I could only get there!she said. "Meet him the day
after to-morrow: God help me! Perhaps I shall be in my
grave before then."

A manor-house clock from the far depths of shadow struck the
houronein a smallattenuated tone. After midnight the
voice of a clock seems to lose in breadth as much as in
lengthand to diminish its sonorousness to a thin falsetto.

Afterwards a light -- two lights -- arose from the remote
shadeand grew larger. A carriage rolled along the toad
and passed the gate. It probably contained some late
diners-out. The beams from one lamp shone for a moment upon
the crouching womanand threw her face into vivid relief.
The face was young in the groundworkold in the finish; the
general contours were flexuous and childlikebut the finer
lineaments had begun to be sharp and thin.

The pedestrian stood upapparently with revived
determinationand looked around. The road appeared to be
familiar to herand she carefully scanned the fence as she
slowly walked along. Presently there became visible a dim
white shape; it was another milestone. She drew her fingers
across its face to feel the marks.

Two more!she said.

She leant against the stone as a means of rest for a short
intervalthen bestirred herselfand again pursued her way.
For a slight distance she bore up bravelyafterwards
flagging as before. This was beside a lone copsewood
wherein heaps of white chips strewn upon the leafy ground
showed that woodmen had been faggoting and making hurdles
during the day. Now there was not a rustlenot a breeze
not the faintest clash of twigs to keep her company. The
woman looked over the gateopened itand went in. Close
to the entrance stood a row of faggotsbound and un-bound
together with stakes of all sizes.

For a few seconds the wayfarer stood with that tense
stillness which signifies itself to be not the end but
merely the suspensionof a previous motion. Her attitude
was that of a person who listenseither to the external
world of soundor to the imagined discourse of thought. A
close criticism might have detected signs proving that she


was intent on the latter alternative. Moreoveras was
shown by what followedshe was oddly exercising the faculty
of invention upon the speciality of the clever Jacquet Droz
the designer of automatic substitutes for human limbs.

By the aid of the Casterbridge auroraand by feeling with
her handsthe woman selected two sticks from the heaps.
These sticks were nearly straight to the height of three or
four feetwhere each branched into a fork like the letter

Y. She sat downsnapped off the small upper twigsand
carried the remainder with her into the road. She placed
one of these forks under each arm as a crutchtested them
timidly threw her whole weight upon them -- so little that
it was -- and swung herself forward. The girl had made for
herself a material aid.
The crutches answered well. The pat of her feetand the
tap of her sticks upon the highwaywere all the sounds that
came from the traveller now. She had passed the last
milestone by a good long distanceand began to look
wistfully towards the bank as if calculating upon another
milestone soon. The crutchesthough so very usefulhad
their limits of power. Mechanism only transfers labour
being powerless to supersede itand the original amount of
exertion was not cleared away; it was thrown into the body
and arms. She was exhaustedand each swing forward became
fainter. At last she swayed sidewaysand fell.

Here she laya shapeless heapfor ten minutes and more.
The morning wind began to boom dully over the flatsand to
move afresh dead leaves which had lain still since
yesterday. The woman desperately turned round upon her
kneesand next rose to her feet. Steadying herself by the
help of one crutchshe essayed a stepthen anotherthen a
thirdusing the crutches now as walking-sticks only. Thus
she progressed till descending Mellstock Hill another
milestone appearedand soon the beginning of an iron-railed
fence came into view. She staggered across to the first
postclung to itand looked around.

The Casterbridge lights were now individually visibleIt
was getting towards morningand vehicles might be hoped
forif not expected soon. She listened. There was not a
sound of life save that acme and sublimation of all dismal
soundsthe bark of a foxits three hollow notes being
rendered at intervals of a minute with the precision of a
funeral bell.

Less than a mile!the woman murmured. "No; more she
added, after a pause. The mile is to the county halland
my resting-place is on the other side Casterbridge. A
little over a mileand there I am!" After an interval she
again spoke. "Five or six steps to a yard -- six perhaps.
I have to go seventeen hundred yards. A hundred times six
six hundred. Seventeen times that. O pity meLord!"

Holding to the railsshe advancedthrusting one hand
forward upon the railthen the otherthen leaning over it
whilst she dragged her feet on beneath.

This woman was not given to soliloquy; but extremity of
feeling lessens the individuality of the weakas it
increases that of the strong. She said again in the same
toneI'll believe that the end lies five posts forward,


and no further, and so get strength to pass them.

This was a practical application of the principle that a
half-feigned and fictitious faith is better than no faith at
all.

She passed five posts and held on to the fifth.

I'll pass five more by believing my longed-for spot is at
the next fifth. I can do it.

She passed five more.

It lies only five further.

She passed five more.

But it is five further.

She passed them.

That stone bridge is the end of my journey,she saidwhen
the bridge over the Froom was in view.

She crawled to the bridge. During the effort each breath of
the woman went into the air as if never to return again.

Now for the truth of the matter,she saidsitting down.
The truth is, that I have less than half a mile.Selfbeguilement
with what she had known all the time to be false
had given her strength to come over half a mile that she
would have been powerless to face in the lump. The artifice
showed that the womanby some mysterious intuitionhad
grasped the paradoxical truth that blindness may operate
more vigorously than prescienceand the short-sighted
effect more than the far-seeing; that limitationand not
comprehensivenessis needed for striking a blow.

The half-mile stood now before the sick and weary woman like
a stolid Juggernaut. It was an impassive King of her world.
The road here ran across Durnover Mooropen to the road on
either side. She surveyed the wide spacethe lights
herselfsighedand lay down against a guard-stone of the
bridge.

Never was ingenuity exercised so sorely as the traveller
here exercised hers. Every conceivable aidmethod
stratagemmechanismby which these last desperate eight
hundred yards could be overpassed by a human being
unperceivedwas revolved in her busy brainand dismissed
as impracticable. She thought of stickswheelscrawling -she
even thought of rolling. But the exertion demanded by
either of these latter two was greater than to walk erect.
The faculty of contrivance was worn outHopelessness had
come at last.

No further!she whisperedand closed her eyes.

From the stripe of shadow on the opposite side of the bridge
a portion of shade seemed to detach itself and move into
isolation upon the pale white of the road. It glided
noiselessly towards the recumbent woman.

She became conscious of something touching her hand; it was


softness and it was warmth. She opened her eye'sand the
substance touched her face. A dog was licking her cheek.

He was a hugeheavyand quiet creaturestanding darkly
against the low horizonand at least two feet higher than
the present position of her eyes. Whether Newfoundland
mastiffbloodhoundor what notit was impossible to say.
He seemed to be of too strange and mysterious a nature to
belong to any variety among those of popular nomenclature.
Being thus assignable to no breedhe was the ideal
embodiment of canine greatness -- a generalization from what
was common to all. Nightin its sadsolemnand
benevolent aspectapart from its stealthy and cruel side
was personified in this form. Darkness endows the small and
ordinary ones among mankind with poetical powerand even
the suffering woman threw her idea into figure.

In her reclining position she looked up to him just as in
earlier times she hadwhen standinglooked up to a man.
The animalwho was as homeless as sherespectfully
withdrew a step or two when the woman movedandseeing
that she did not repulse himhe licked her hand again.

A thought moved within her like lightning. "Perhaps I can
make use of him -- I might do it then!"

She pointed in the direction of Casterbridgeand the dog
seemed to misunderstand: he trotted on. Thenfinding she
could not followhe came back and whined.

The ultimate and saddest singularity of woman's effort and
invention was reached whenwith a quickened breathingshe
rose to a stooping postureandresting her two little arms
upon the shoulders of the dogleant firmly thereonand
murmured stimulating words. Whilst she sorrowed in her
heart she cheered with her voiceand what was stranger than
that the strong should need encouragement from the weak was
that cheerfulness should be so well stimulated by such utter
dejection. Her friend moved forward slowlyand she with
small mincing steps moved forward beside himhalf her
weight being thrown upon the animal. Sometimes she sank as
she had sunk from walking erectfrom the crutchesfrom the
rails. The dogwho now thoroughly understood her desire
and her incapacitywas frantic in his distress on these
occasions; he would tug at her dress and run forward. She
always called him backand it was now to be observed that
the woman listened for human sounds only to avoid them. It
was evident that she had an object in keeping her presence
on the road and her forlorn state unknown.

Their progress was necessarily very slow. They reached the
bottom of the townand the Casterbridge lamps lay before
them like fallen Pleiads as they turned to the left into the
dense shade of a deserted avenue of chestnutsand so
skirted the borough. Thus the town was passedand the goal
was reached.

On this much-desired spot outside the town rose a
picturesque building. Originally it had been a mere case to
hold people. The shell had been so thinso devoid of
excrescenceand so closely drawn over the accommodation
grantedthat the grim character of what was beneath showed
through itas the shape of a body is visible under a
winding-sheet.


Then Natureas if offendedlent a hand. Masses of ivy
grew upcompletely covering the wallstill the place
looked like an abbey; and it was discovered that the view
from the frontover the Casterbridge chimneyswas one of
the most magnificent in the county. A neighbouring earl
once said that he would give up a year's rental to have at
his own door the view enjoyed by the inmates from theirs -and
very probably the inmates would have given up the view
for his year's rental.

This stone edifice consisted of a central mass and two
wingswhereon stood as sentinels a few slim chimneysnow
gurgling sorrowfully to the slow wind. In the wall was a
gateand by the gate a bellpull formed of a hanging wire.
The woman raised herself as high as possible upon her knees
and could just reach the handle. She moved it and fell
forwards in a bowed attitudeher face upon her bosom.

It was getting on towards six o'clockand sounds of
movement were to be heard inside the building which was the
haven of rest to this wearied soul. A little door by the
large one was openedand a man appeared inside. He
discerned the panting heap of clotheswent back for a
lightand came again. He entered a second timeand
returned with two women.

These lifted the prostrate figure and assisted her in
through the doorway. The man then closed the door.

How did she get here?" said one of the women.

The Lord knows,said the other.

There is a dog outside murmured the overcome traveller.
Where is he gone? He helped me."

I stoned him away said the man.

The little procession then moved forward -- the man in front
bearing the light, the two bony women next, supporting
between them the small and supple one. Thus they entered
the house and disappeared.

CHAPTER XLI

SUSPICION -- FANNY IS SENT FOR

BATHSHEBA said very little to her husband all that evening
of their return from market, and he was not disposed to say
much to her. He exhibited the unpleasant combination of a
restless condition with a silent tongue. The next day,
which was Sunday, passed nearly in the same manner as
regarded their taciturnity, Bathsheba going to church both
morning and afternoon. This was the day before the Budmouth
races. In the evening Troy said, suddenly -


Bathshebacould you let me have twenty pounds?"

Her countenance instantly sank. "Twenty pounds?" she said.


The fact is, I want it badly.The anxiety upon Troy's
face was unusual and very marked. It was a culmination of
the mood he had been in all the day.

Ah! for those races to-morrow.

Troy for the moment made no reply. Her mistake had its
advantages to a man who shrank from having his mind
inspected as he did now. "Wellsuppose I do want it for
races?" he saidat last.

Oh, Frank!Bathsheba repliedand there was such a volume
of entreaty in the words. "Only such a few weeks ago you
said that I was far sweeter than all your other pleasures
put togetherand that you would give them all up for me;
and nowwon't you give up this onewhich is more a worry
than a pleasure? DoFrank. Comelet me fascinate you by
all I can do -- by pretty words and pretty looksand
everything I can think of -- to stay at home. Say yes to
your wife -- say yes!"

The tenderest and softest phases of Bathsheba's nature were
prominent now -- advanced impulsively for his acceptance
without any of the disguises and defences which the wariness
of her character when she was cool too frequently threw over
them. Few men could have resisted the arch yet dignified
entreaty of the beautiful facethrown a little back and
sideways in the well known attitude that expresses more than
the words it accompaniesand which seems to have been
designed for these special occasions. Had the woman not
been his wifeTroy would have succumbed instantly; as it
washe thought he would not deceive her longer.

The money is not wanted for racing debts at all,he said.

What is it for?she asked. "You worry me a great deal by
these mysterious responsibilitiesFrank."

Troy hesitated. He did not now love her enough to allow
himself to be carried too far by her ways. Yet it was
necessary to be civil. "You wrong me by such a suspicious
manner he said. Such strait-waistcoating as you treat me
to is not becoming in you at so early a date."

I think that I have a right to grumble a little if I pay,
she saidwith features between a smile and a pout.

Exactly; and, the former being done, suppose we proceed to
the latter. Bathsheba, fun is all very well, but don't go
too far, or you may have cause to regret something.

She reddened. "I do that already she said, quickly.

What do you regret?"

That my romance has come to an end.

All romances end at marriage.

I wish you wouldn't talk like that. You grieve me to my
soul by being smart at my expense.

You are dull enough at mine. I believe you hate me.


Not you -- only your faults. I do hate them.

'Twould be much more becoming if you set yourself to cure
them. Come, let's strike a balance with the twenty pounds,
and be friends.

She gave a sigh of resignation. "I have about that sum here
for household expenses. If you must have ittake it."

Very good. Thank you. I expect I shall have gone away
before you are in to breakfast to-morrow.

And must you go? Ah! there was a time, Frank, when it would
have taken a good many promises to other people to drag you
away from me. You used to call me darling, then. But it
doesn't matter to you how my days are passed now.

I must go, in spite of sentiment.Troyas he spoke
looked at his watchandapparently actuated by NON LUCENDO
principlesopened the case at the backrevealingsnugly
stowed within ita small coil of hair.

Bathsheba's eyes had been accidentally lifted at that
momentand she saw the action and saw the hair. She
flushed in pain and surpriseand some words escaped her
before she had thought whether or not it was wise to utter
them. "A woman's curl of hair!" she said. "OhFrank
whose is that?"

Troy had instantly closed his watch. He carelessly replied
as one who cloaked some feelings that the sight had stirred.
Why, yours, of course. Whose should it be? I had quite
forgotten that I had it.

What a dreadful fib, Frank!

I tell you I had forgotten it!he saidloudly.

I don't mean that -- it was yellow hair.

Nonsense.

That's insulting me. I know it was yellow. Now whose was
it? I want to know.

Very well I'll tell you, so make no more ado. It is the
hair of a young woman I was going to marry before I knew
you.

You ought to tell me her name, then.

I cannot do that.

Is she married yet?

No.

Is she alive?

Yes.

Is she pretty?

Yes.


It is wonderful how she can be, poor thing, under such an
awful affliction!

Affliction -- what affliction?he inquiredquickly.

Having hair of that dreadful colour.

Oh -- ho -- I like that!said Troyrecovering himself.
Why, her hair has been admired by everybody who has seen
her since she has worn it loose, which has not been long.
It is beautiful hair. People used to turn their heads to
look at it, poor girl!

Pooh! that's nothing -- that's nothing!she exclaimedin
incipient accents of pique. "If I cared for your love as
much as I used to I could say people had turned to look at
mine."

Bathsheba, don't be so fitful and jealous. You knew what
married life would be like, and shouldn't have entered it if
you feared these contingencies.

Troy had by this time driven her to bitterness: her heart
was big in her throatand the ducts to her eyes were
painfully full. Ashamed as she was to show emotionat last
she burst out: -


This is all I get for loving you so well! Ah! when I
married you your life was dearer to me than my own. I would
have died for you -- how truly I can say that I would have
died for you! And now you sneer at my foolishness in
marrying you. O! is it kind to me to throw my mistake in my
face? Whatever opinion you may have of my wisdom, you
should not tell me of it so mercilessly, now that I am in
your power.

I can't help how things fall out,said Troy; "upon my
heartwomen will be the death of me!"

Well you shouldn't keep people's hair. You'll burn it,
won't you, Frank?

Frank went on as if he had not heard her. "There are
considerations even before my consideration for you;
reparations to be made -- ties you know nothing of. If you
repent of marryingso do I."

Trembling nowshe put her hand upon his armsayingin
mingled tones of wretchedness and coaxingI only repent it
if you don't love me better than any woman in the world! I
don't otherwise, Frank. You don't repent because you
already love somebody better than you love me, do you?

I don't know. Why do you say that?

You won't burn that curl. You like the woman who owns that
pretty hair -- yes; it is pretty -- more beautiful than my
miserable black mane! Well, it is no use; I can't help
being ugly. You must like her best, if you will!

Until to-day, when I took it from a drawer, I have never
looked upon that bit of hair for several months -- that I am
ready to swear.


But just now you said 'ties'; and then -- that woman we
met?

'Twas the meeting with her that reminded me of the hair.

Is it hers, then?

Yes. There, now that you have wormed it out of me, I hope
you are content.

And what are the ties?

Oh! that meant nothing -- a mere jest.

A mere jest!she saidin mournful astonishment. "Can you
jest when I am so wretchedly in earnest? Tell me the truth
Frank. I am not a foolyou knowalthough I am a woman
and have my woman's moments. Come! treat me fairly she
said, looking honestly and fearlessly into his face. I
don't want much; bare justice -- that's all! Ah! once I
felt I could be content with nothing less than the highest
homage from the husband I should choose. Nowanything
short of cruelty will content me. Yes! the independent and
spirited Bathsheba is come to this!"

For Heaven's sake don't be so desperate!Troy said
snappishlyrising as he did soand leaving the room.

Directly he had goneBathsheba burst into great sobs -dry-
eyed sobswhich cut as they camewithout any softening
by tears. But she determined to repress all evidences of
feeling. She was conquered; but she would never own it as
long as she lived. Her pride was indeed brought low by
despairing discoveries of her spoliation by marriage with a
less pure nature than her own. She chafed to and fro in
rebelliousnesslike a caged leopard; her whole soul was in
armsand the blood fired her face. Until she had met Troy
Bathsheba had been proud of her position as a woman; it had
been a glory to her to know that her lips had been touched
by no man's on earth -- that her waist had never been
encircled by a lover's arm. She hated herself now. In
those earlier days she had always nourished a secret
contempt for girls who were the slaves of the first
goodlooking young fellow who should choose to salute them.
She had never taken kindly to the idea of marriage in the
abstract as did the majority of women she saw about her. In
the turmoil of her anxiety for her lover she had agreed to
marry him; but the perception that had accompanied her
happiest hours on this account was rather that of selfsacrifice
than of promotion and honour. Although she
scarcely knew the divinity's nameDiana was the goddess
whom Bathsheba instinctively adored. That she had neverby
lookwordor signencouraged a man to approach her -that
she had felt herself sufficient to herselfand had in
the independence of her girlish heart fancied there was a
certain degradation in renouncing the simplicity of a maiden
existence to become the humbler half of an indifferent
matrimonial whole -- were facts now bitterly remembered.
Ohif she had never stooped to folly of this kind
respectable as it wasand could only stand againas she
had stood on the hill at Norcombeand dare Troy or any
other man to pollute a hair of her head by his interference!


The next morning she rose earlier than usualand had the
horse saddled for her ride round the farm in the customary
way. When she came in at half-past eight -- their usual
hour for breakfasting -- she was informed that her husband
had risentaken his breakfastand driven off to
Casterbridge with the gig and Poppet.

After breakfast she was cool and collected -- quite herself
in fact -- and she rambled to the gateintending to walk to
another quarter of the farmwhich she still personally
superintended as well as her duties in the house would
permitcontinuallyhoweverfinding herself preceded in
forethought by Gabriel Oakfor whom she began to entertain
the genuine friendship of a sister. Of courseshe
sometimes thought of him in the light of an old loverand
had momentary imaginings of what life with him as a husband
would have been like; also of life with Boldwood under the
same conditions. But Bathshebathough she could feelwas
not much given to futile dreamingand her musings under
this head were short and entirely confined to the times when
Troy's neglect was more than ordinarily evident.

She saw coming up the road a man like Mr. Boldwood. It was
Mr. Boldwood. Bathsheba blushed painfullyand watched.
The farmer stopped when still a long way offand held up
his hand to Gabriel Oakwho was in a footpath across the
field. The two men then approached each other and seemed to
engage in earnest conversation.

Thus they continued for a long time. Joseph Poorgrass now
passed near themwheeling a barrow of apples up the hill to
Bathsheba's residence. Boldwood and Gabriel called to him
spoke to him for a few minutesand then all three parted
Joseph immediately coming up the hill with his barrow.

Bathshebawho had seen this pantomime with some surprise
experienced great relief when Boldwood turned back again.
Well, what's the message, Joseph?she said.

He set down his barrowandputting upon himself the
refined aspect that a conversation with a lady required
spoke to Bathsheba over the gate.

You'll never see Fanny Robin no more -- use nor principal -ma'am.


Why?

Because she's dead in the Union.

Fanny dead -- never!

Yes, ma'am.

What did she die from?

I don't know for certain; but I should be inclined to think
it was from general neshness of constitution. She was such
a limber maid that 'a could stand no hardship, even when I
knowed her, and 'a went like a candle-snoff, so 'tis said.
She was took bad in the morning, and, being quite feeble and
worn out, she died in the evening. She belongs by law to
our parish; and Mr. Boldwood is going to send a waggon at
three this afternoon to fetch her home here and bury her.


Indeed I shall not let Mr. Boldwood do any such thing -- I
shall do it! Fanny was my uncle's servant, and, although I
only knew her for a couple of days, she belongs to me. How
very, very sad this is! -- the idea of Fanny being in a
workhouse.Bathsheba had begun to know what suffering was
and she spoke with real feeling.... "Send across to Mr.
Boldwood'sand say that Mrs. Troy will take upon herself
the duty of fetching an old servant of the family.... We
ought not to put her in a waggon; we'll get a hearse."

There will hardly be time, ma'am, will there?

Perhaps not,she saidmusingly. "When did you say we
must be at the door -- three o'clock?"

Three o'clock this afternoon, ma'am, so to speak it.

Very well -- you go with it. A pretty waggon is better
than an ugly hearse, after all. Joseph, have the new spring
waggon with the blue body and red wheels, and wash it very
clean. And, Joseph ----

Yes, ma'am.

Carry with you some evergreens and flowers to put upon her
coffin -- indeed, gather a great many, and completely bury
her in them. Get some boughs of laurustinus, and variegated
box, and yew, and boy's-love; ay, and some hunches of
chrysanthemum. And let old Pleasant draw her, because she
knew him so well.

I will, ma'am. I ought to have said that the Union, in the
form of four labouring men, will meet me when I gets to our
churchyard gate, and take her and bury her according to the
rites of the Board of Guardians, as by law ordained.

Dear me -- Casterbridge Union -- and is Fanny come to
this?said Bathshebamusing. "I wish I had known of it
sooner. I thought she was far away. How long has she lived
there?"

On'y been there a day or two.

Oh! -- then she has not been staying there as a regular
inmate?

No. She first went to live in a garrison-town t'other side
o' Wessex, and since then she's been picking up a living at
seampstering in Melchester for several months, at the house
of a very respectable widow-woman who takes in work of that
sort. She only got handy the Union-house on Sunday morning
'a b'lieve, and 'tis supposed here and there that she had
traipsed every step of the way from Melchester. Why she
left her place, I can't say, for I don't know; and as to a
lie, why, I wouldn't tell it. That's the short of the
story, ma'am.

Ah-h!

No gem ever flashed from a rosy ray to a white one more
rapidly than changed the young wife's countenance whilst
this word came from her in a long-drawn breath. "Did she
walk along our turnpike-road?" she saidin a suddenly


restless and eager voice.

I believe she did.... Ma'am, shall I call Liddy? You
bain't well, ma'am, surely? You look like a lily -- so pale
and fainty!

No; don't call her; it is nothing. When did she pass
Weatherbury?

Last Saturday night.

That will do, Joseph; now you may go.

Certainly, ma'am.

Joseph, come hither a moment. What was the colour of Fanny
Robin's hair?

Really, mistress, now that 'tis put to me so judge-and-jury
like, I can't call to mind, if ye'll believe me!

Never mind; go on and do what I told you. Stop -- well no,
go on.

She turned herself away from himthat he might no longer
notice the mood which had set its sign so visibly upon her
and went indoors with a distressing sense of faintness and a
beating brow. About an hour aftershe heard the noise of
the waggon and went outstill with a painful consciousness
of her bewildered and troubled look. Josephdressed in his
best suit of clotheswas putting in the horse to start.
The shrubs and flowers were all piled in the waggonas she
had directed Bathsheba hardly saw them now.

Whose sweetheart did you say, Joseph?

I don't know, ma'am.

Are you quite sure?

Yes, ma'am, quite sure.

Sure of what?"

I'm sure that all I know is that she arrived in the morning
and died in the evening without further parley. What Oak
and Mr. Boldwood told me was only these few words. 'Little
Fanny Robin is dead, Joseph,' Gabriel said, looking in my
face in his steady old way. I was very sorry, and I said,
'Ah! -- and how did she come to die?' 'Well, she's dead in
Casterhridge Union,' he said, 'and perhaps 'tisn't much
matter about how she came to die. She reached the Union
early Sunday morning, and died in the afternoon -- that's
clear enough.' Then I asked what she'd been doing lately,
and Mr. Boldwood turned round to me then, and left off
spitting a thistle with the end of his stick. He told me
about her having lived by seampstering in Melchester, as I
mentioned to you, and that she walked therefrom at the end
of last week, passing near here Saturday night in the dusk.
They then said I had better just name a hint of her death to
you, and away they went. Her death might have been brought
on by biding in the night wind, you know, ma'am; for people
used to say she'd go off in a decline: she used to cough a
good deal in winter time. However, 'tisn't much odds to us


about that now, for 'tis all over.

Have you heard a different story at all?She looked at him
so intently that Joseph's eyes quailed.

Not a word, mistress, I assure 'ee!he said. "Hardly
anybody in the parish knows the news yet."

I wonder why Gabriel didn't bring the message to me
himself. He mostly makes a point of seeing me upon the most
trifling errand.These words were merely murmuredand she
was looking upon the ground.

Perhaps he was busy, ma'am,Joseph suggested. "And
sometimes he seems to suffer from things upon his mind
connected with the time when he was better off than 'a is
now. 'A's rather a curious itembut a very understanding
shepherdand learned in books."

Did anything seem upon his mind whilst he was speaking to
you about this?

I cannot but say that there did, ma'am. He was terrible
down, and so was Farmer Boldwood.

Thank you, Joseph. That will do. Go on now, or you'll be
late.

Bathshebastill unhappywent indoors again. In the course
of the afternoon she said to LiddyWho had been informed of
the occurrenceWhat was the colour of poor Fanny Robin's
hair? Do you know? I cannot recollect -- I only saw her
for a day or two.

It was light, ma'am; but she wore it rather short, and
packed away under her cap, so that you would hardly notice
it. But I have seen her let it down when she was going to
bed, and it looked beautiful then. Real golden hair.

Her young man was a soldier, was he not?

Yes. In the same regiment as Mr. Troy. He says he knew
him very well.

What, Mr. Troy says so? How came he to say that?

One day I just named it to him, and asked him if he knew
Fanny's young man. He said, Oh yeshe knew the young man
as well as he knew himselfand that there wasn't a man in
the regiment he liked better."

Ah! Said that, did he?

Yes; and he said there was a strong likeness between
himself and the other young man, so that sometimes people
mistook them ----

Liddy, for Heaven's sake stop your talking!said
Bathshebawith the nervous petulance that comes from
worrying perceptions.

CHAPTER XLII


JOSEPH AND HIS BURDEN

A WALL bounded the site of Casterbridge Union-houseexcept
along a portion of the end. Here a high gable stood
prominentand it was covered like the front with a mat of
ivy. In this gable was no windowchimneyornamentor
protuberance of any kind. The single feature appertaining
to itbeyond the expanse of dark green leaveswas a small
door.

The situation of the door was peculiar. The sill was three
or four feet above the groundand for a moment one was at a
loss for an explanation of this exceptional altitudetill
ruts immediately beneath suggested that the door was used
solely for the passage of articles and persons to and from
the level of a vehicle standing on the outside. Upon the
wholethe door seemed to advertise itself as a species of
Traitor's Gate translated to another sphere. That entry and
exit hereby was only at rare intervals became apparent on
noting that tufts of grass were allowed to flourish
undisturbed in the chinks of the sill.

As the clock over the South-street Alms-house pointed to
five minutes to threea blue spring waggonpicked out with
redand containing boughs and flowerspassed the end of
the streetand up towards this side of the building.
Whilst the chimes were yet stammering out a shattered form
of "Malbrook." Joseph Poorgrass rang the belland received
directions to back his waggon against the high door under
the gable. The door then openedand a plain elm coffin was
slowly thrust forthand laid by two men in fustian along
the middle of the vehicle.

One of the men then stepped up beside ittook from his
pocket a lump of chalkand wrote upon the cover the name
and a few other words in a large scrawling hand. (We
believe that they do these things more tenderly nowand
provide a plate.) He covered the whole with a black cloth
threadbarebut decentthe tailboard of the waggon was
returned to its placeone of the men handed a certificate
of registry to Poorgrassand both entered the doorclosing
it behind them. Their connection with hershort as it had
beenwas over for ever.

Joseph then placed the flowers as enjoinedand the
evergreens around the flowerstill it was difficult to
divine what the waggon contained; he smacked his whipand
the rather pleasing funeral car crept down the hilland
along the road to Weatherbury.

The afternoon drew on apaceandlooking to the right
towards the sea as he walked beside the horsePoorgrass saw
strange clouds and scrolls of mist rolling over the long
ridges which girt the landscape in that quarter. They came
in yet greater volumesand indolently crept across the
intervening valleysand around the withered papery flags of
the moor and river brinks. Then their dank spongy forms
closed in upon the sky. It was a sudden overgrowth of
atmospheric fungi which had their roots in the neighbouring
seaand by the time that horsemanand corpse entered
Yalbury Great Woodthese silent workings of an invisible
hand had reached themand they were completely enveloped


this being the first arrival of the autumn fogsand the
first fog of the series.

The air was as an eye suddenly struck blind. The waggon and
its load rolled no longer on the horizontal division between
clearness and opacitybut were imbedded in an elastic body
of a monotonous pallor throughout. There was no perceptible
motion in the airnot a visible drop of water fell upon a
leaf of the beechesbirchesand firs composing the wood on
either side. The trees stood in an attitude of intentness
as if they waited longingly for a wind to come and rock
them. A startling quiet overhung all surrounding things -so
completelythat the crunching of the waggon-wheels was
as a great noiseand small rustleswhich had never
obtained a hearing except by nightwere distinctly
individualized.

Joseph Poorgrass looked round upon his sad burden as it
loomed faintly through the flowering laurustinusthen at
the unfathomable gloom amid the high trees on each hand
indistinctshadowlessand spectrelike in their monochrome
of grey. He felt anything but cheerfuland wished he had
the company even of a child or dog. Stopping the horsehe
listened. Not a footstep or wheel was audible anywhere
aroundand the dead silence was broken only by a heavy
particle falling from a tree through the evergreens and
alighting with a smart rap upon the coffin of poor Fanny.
The fog had by this time saturated the treesand this was
the first dropping of water from the overbrimming leaves.
The hollow echo of its fall reminded the waggoner painfully
of the grim Leveller. Then hard by came down another drop
then two or three. Presently there was a continual tapping
of these heavy drops upon the dead leavesthe roadand the
travellers. The nearer boughs were beaded with the mist to
the greyness of aged menand the rusty-red leaves of the
beeches were hung with similar dropslike diamonds on
auburn hair.

At the roadside hamlet called Roy-Townjust beyond this
woodwas the old inn Buck's Head. It was about a mile and
a half from Weatherburyand in the meridian times of stagecoach
travelling had been the place where many coaches
changed and kept their relays of horses. All the old
stabling was now pulled downand little remained besides
the habitable inn itselfwhichstanding a little way back
from the roadsignified its existence to people far up and
down the highway by a sign hanging from the horizontal bough
of an elm on the opposite side of the way.

Travellers -- for the variety TOURIST had hardly developed
into a distinct species at this date -- sometimes said in
passingwhen they cast their eyes up to the sign-bearing
treethat artists were fond of representing the signboard
hanging thusbut that they themselves had never before
noticed so perfect an instance in actual working order. It
was near this tree that the waggon was standing into which
Gabriel Oak crept on his first journey to Weatherbury; but
owing to the darknessthe sign and the inn had been
unobserved.

The manners of the inn were of the old-established type.
Indeedin the minds of its frequenters they existed as
unalterable formulae: E.G. -



Rap with the bottom of your pint for more liquor.

For tobaccoshout.

In calling for the girl in waitingsayMaid!

Ditto for the landladyOld Soul!etc.etc.

It was a relief to Joseph's heart when the friendly
signboard came in viewandstopping his horse immediately
beneath ithe proceeded to fulfil an intention made a long
time before. His spirits were oozing out of him quite. He
turned the horse's head to the green bankand entered the
hostel for a mug of ale.

Going down into the kitchen of the innthe floor of which
was a step below the passagewhich in its turn was a step
below the road outsidewhat should Joseph see to gladden
his eyes but two copper-coloured discsin the form of the
countenances of Mr. Jan Coggan and Mr. Mark Clark. These
owners of the two most appreciative throats in the
neighbourhoodwithin the pale of respectabilitywere now
sitting face to face over a threelegged circular table
having an iron rim to keep cups and pots from being
accidentally elbowed off; they might have been said to
resemble the setting sun and the full moon shining VIS-A-VIS
across the globe.

Why, 'tis neighbour Poorgrass!said Mark Clark. "I'm sure
your face don't praise your mistress's tableJoseph."

I've had a very pale companion for the last four miles,
said Josephindulging in a shudder toned down by
resignation. "And to speak the truth'twas beginning to
tell upon me. I assure yeI ha'n't seed the colour of
victuals or drink since breakfast time this morningand
that was no more than a dew-bit afield."

Then drink, Joseph, and don't restrain yourself!said
Cogganhanding him a hooped mug three-quarters full.

Joseph drank for a moderately long timethen for a longer
timesayingas he lowered the jug'Tis pretty drinking -very
pretty drinking, and is more than cheerful on my
melancholy errand, so to speak it.

True, drink is a pleasant delight,said Janas one who
repeated a truism so familiar to his brain that he hardly
noticed its passage over his tongue; andlifting the cup
Coggan tilted his head gradually backwardswith closed
eyesthat his expectant soul might not be diverted for one
instant from its bliss by irrelevant surroundings.

Well, I must be on again,said Poorgrass. "Not but that I
should like another nip with ye; but the parish might lose
confidence in me if I was seed here."

Where be ye trading o't to to-day, then, Joseph?

Back to Weatherbury. I've got poor little Fanny Robin in
my waggon outside, and I must be at the churchyard gates at
a quarter to five with her.

Ay -- I've heard of it. And so she's nailed up in parish
boards after all, and nobody to pay the bell shilling and


the grave half-crown.

The parish pays the grave half-crown, but not the bell
shilling, because the bell's a luxery: but 'a can hardly do
without the grave, poor body. However, I expect our
mistress will pay all.

A pretty maid as ever I see! But what's yer hurry, Joseph?
The pore woman's dead, and you can't bring her to life, and
you may as well sit down comfortable, and finish another
with us.

I don't mind taking just the least thimbleful ye can dream
of more with ye, sonnies. But only a few minutes, because
'tis as 'tis.

Of course, you'll have another drop. A man's twice the man
afterwards. You feel so warm and glorious, and you whop and
slap at your work without any trouble, and everything goes
on like sticks a-breaking. Too much liquor is bad, and
leads us to that horned man in the smoky house; but after
all, many people haven't the gift of enjoying a wet, and
since we be highly favoured with a power that way, we should
make the most o't.

True,said Mark Clark. "'Tis a talent the Lord has
mercifully bestowed upon usand we ought not to neglect it.
Butwhat with the parsons and clerks and schoolpeople and
serious tea-partiesthe merry old ways of good life have
gone to the dogs -- upon my carcasethey have!"

Well, really, I must be onward again now,said Joseph.

Now, now, Joseph; nonsense! The poor woman is dead, isn't
she, and what's your hurry?

Well, I hope Providence won't be in a way with me for my
doings,said Josephagain sitting down. "I've been
troubled with weak moments lately'tis true. I've been
drinky once this month alreadyand I did not go to church
a-Sundayand I dropped a curse or two yesterday; so I don't
want to go too far for my safety. Your next world is your
next worldand not to be squandered offhand."

I believe ye to be a chapelmember, Joseph. That I do.

Oh, no, no! I don't go so far as that.

For my part,said CogganI'm staunch Church of England.

Ay, and faith, so be I,said Mark Clark.

I won't say much for myself; I don't wish to,Coggan
continuedwith that tendency to talk on principles which is
characteristic of the barley-corn. "But I've never changed
a single doctrine: I've stuck like a plaster to the old
faith I was born in. Yes; there's this to be said for the
Churcha man can belong to the Church and bide in his
cheerful old innand never trouble or worry his mind about
doctrines at all. But to be a meetingeryou must go to
chapel in all winds and weathersand make yerself as
frantic as a skit. Not but that chapel members be clever
chaps enough in their way. They can lift up beautiful
prayers out of their own headsall about their families and


shipwrecks in the newspaper."

They can -- they can,said Mark Clarkwith corroborative
feeling; "but we Churchmenyou seemust have it all
printed aforehandordang it allwe should no more know
what to say to a great gaffer like the Lord than babes
unborn

Chapelfolk be more hand-in-glove with them above than we
said Joseph, thoughtfully.

Yes said Coggan. We know very well that if anybody do
go to heaventhey will. They've worked hard for itand
they deserve to have itsuch as 'tis. I bain't such a fool
as to pretend that we who stick to the Church have the same
chance as theybecause we know we have not. But I hate a
feller who'll change his old ancient doctrines for the sake
of getting to heaven. I'd as soon turn king's-evidence for
the few pounds you get. Whyneighbourswhen every one of
my taties were frostedour Parson Thirdly were the man who
gave me a sack for seedthough he hardly had one for his
own useand no money to buy 'em. If it hadn't been for
himI shouldn't hae had a tatie to put in my garden. D'ye
think I'd turn after that? NoI'll stick to my side; and if
we be in the wrongso be it: I'll fall with the fallen!"

Well said -- very well said,observed Joseph. -- "However
folksI must be moving now: upon my life I must. Pa'son
Thirdly will be waiting at the church gatesand there's the
woman a-biding outside in the waggon."

Joseph Poorgrass, don't be so miserable! Pa'son Thirdly
won't mind. He's a generous man; he's found me in tracts
for years, and I've consumed a good many in the course of a
long and shady life; but he's never been the man to cry out
at the expense. Sit down.

The longer Joseph Poorgrass remainedthe less his spirit
was troubled by the duties which devolved upon him this
afternoon. The minutes glided by uncounteduntil the
evening shades began perceptibly to deepenand the eyes of
the three were but sparkling points on the surface of
darkness. Coggan's repeater struck six from his pocket in
the usual still small tones.

At that moment hasty steps were heard in the entryand the
door opened to admit the figure of Gabriel Oakfollowed by
the maid of the inn bearing a candle. He stared sternly at
the one lengthy and two round faces of the sitterswhich
confronted him with the expressions of a fiddle and a couple
of warming-pans. Joseph Poorgrass blinkedand shrank
several inches into the background.

Upon my soul, I'm ashamed of you; 'tis disgraceful, Joseph,
disgraceful!said Gabrielindignantly. "Cogganyou call
yourself a manand don't know better than this."

Coggan looked up indefinitely at Oakone or other of his
eyes occasionally opening and closing of its own accordas
if it were not a memberbut a dozy individual with a
distinct personality.

Don't take on so, shepherd!said Mark Clarklooking
reproachfully at the candlewhich appeared to possess


special features of interest for his eyes.

Nobody can hurt a dead woman,at length said Cogganwith
the precision of a machine. "All that could be done for her
is done -- she's beyond us: and why should a man put
himself in a tearing hurry for lifeless clay that can
neither feel nor seeand don't know what you do with her at
all? If she'd been aliveI would have been the first to
help her. If she now wanted victuals and drinkI'd pay for
itmoney down. But she's deadand no speed of ours will
bring her to life. The woman's past us -- time spent upon
her is throwed away: why should we hurry to do what's not
required? Drinkshepherdand be friendsfor to-morrow we
may be like her."

We may,added Mark Clarkemphaticallyat once drinking
himselfto run no further risk of losing his chance by the
event alluded toJan meanwhile merging his additional
thoughts of to-morrow in a song: -


To-mor-rowto-mor-row!
And while peace and plen-ty I find at my board
With a heart free from sick-ness and sor-row
With my friends will I share what to-day may af-ford
And let them spread the ta-ble to-mor-row.
To-mor-row'to-mor ---


Do hold thy horning, Jan!said Oak; and turning upon
Poorgrassas for you, Joseph, who do your wicked deeds in
such confoundedly holy ways, you are as drunk as you can
stand.

No, Shepherd Oak, no! Listen to reason, shepherd. All
that's the matter with me is the affliction called a
multiplying eye, and that's how it is I look double to you -I
mean, you look double to me.

A multiplying eye is a very bad thing,said Mark Clark.

It always comes on when I have been in a public-house a
little time,said Joseph Poorgrassmeekly. "Yes; I see
two of every sortas if I were some holy man living in the
times of King Noah and entering into the ark.... Y-y-yyes
he added, becoming much affected by the picture of
himself as a person thrown away, and shedding tears; I feel
too good for England: I ought to have lived in Genesis by
rightslike the other men of sacrificeand then I
shouldn't have b-b-been called a d-d-drunkard in such a
way!"

I wish you'd show yourself a man of spirit, and not sit
whining there!

Show myself a man of spirit? ... Ah, well! let me take the
name of drunkard humbly -- let me be a man of contrite knees
-- let it be! I know that I always do say Please God"
afore I do anythingfrom my getting up to my going down of
the sameand I be willing to take as much disgrace as there
is in that holy act. Hahyes! ... But not a man of
spirit? Have I ever allowed the toe of pride to be lifted
against my hinder parts without groaning manfully that I
question the right to do so? I inquire that query boldly?"


We can't say that you have, Hero Poorgrass,admitted Jan.

Never have I allowed such treatment to pass unquestioned!
Yet the shepherd says in the face of that rich testimony
that I be not a man of spirit! Well, let it pass by, and
death is a kind friend!

Gabrielseeing that neither of the three was in a fit state
to take charge of the waggon for the remainder of the
journeymade no replybutclosing the door again upon
themwent across to where the vehicle stoodnow getting
indistinct in the fog and gloom of this mildewy time. He
pulled the horse's head from the large patch of turf it had
eaten barereadjusted the boughs over the coffinand drove
along through the unwholesome night.

It had gradually become rumoured in the village that the
body to be brought and buried that day was all that was left
of the unfortunate Fanny Robin who had followed the Eleventh
from Casterbridge through Melchester and onwards. But
thanks to Boldwood's reticence and Oak's generositythe
lover she had followed had never been individualized as
Troy. Gabriel hoped that the whole truth of the matter
might not be published till at any rate the girl had been in
her grave for a few dayswhen the interposing barriers of
earth and timeand a sense that the events had been
somewhat shut into oblivionwould deaden the sting that
revelation and invidious remark would have for Bathsheba
just now.

By the time that Gabriel reached the old manor-househer
residencewhich lay in his way to the churchit was quite
dark. A man came from the gate and said through the fog
which hung between them like blown flour -


Is that Poorgrass with the corpse?

Gabriel recognized the voice as that of the parson.

The corpse is here, sir,said Gabriel.

I have just been to inquire of Mrs. Troy if she could tell
me the reason of the delay. I am afraid it is too late now
for the funeral to be performed with proper decency. Have
you the registrar's certificate?

No,said Gabriel. "I expect Poorgrass has that; and he's
at the Buck's Head. I forgot to ask him for it."

Then that settles the matter. We'll put off the funeral
till to-morrow morning. The body may be brought on to the
church, or it may be left here at the farm and fetched by
the bearers in the morning. They waited more than an hour,
and have now gone home.

Gabriel had his reasons for thinking the latter a most
objectionable plannotwithstanding that Fanny had been an
inmate of the farm-house for several years in the lifetime
of Bathsheba's uncle. Visions of several unhappy
contingencies which might arise from this delay flitted
before him. But his will was not lawand he went indoors
to inquire of his mistress what were her wishes on the
subject. He found her in an unusual mood: her eyes as she


looked up to him were suspicious and perplexed as with some
antecedent thought. Troy had not yet returned. At first
Bathsheba assented with a mien of indifference to his
proposition that they should go on to the church at once
with their burden; but immediately afterwardsfollowing
Gabriel to the gateshe swerved to the extreme of
solicitousness on Fanny's accountand desired that the girl
might be brought into the house. Oak argued upon the
convenience of leaving her in the waggonjust as she lay
nowwith her flowers and green leaves about hermerely
wheeling the vehicle into the coach-house till the morning
but to no purposeIt is unkind and unchristian,she said
to leave the poor thing in a coach-house all night.

Very well, then,said the parson. "And I will arrange
that the funeral shall take place early to-morrow. Perhaps
Mrs. Troy is right in feeling that we cannot treat a dead
fellow-creature too thoughtfully. We must remember that
though she may have erred grievously in leaving her home
she is still our sister: and it is to be believed that God's
uncovenanted mercies are extended towards herand that she
is a member of the flock of Christ."

The parson's words spread into the heavy air with a sad yet
unperturbed cadenceand Gabriel shed an honest tear.
Bathsheba seemed unmoved. Mr. Thirdly then left themand
Gabriel lighted a lantern. Fetching three other men to
assist himthey bore the unconscious truant indoors
placing the coffin on two benches in the middle of a little
sitting-room next the hallas Bathsheba directed.

Every one except Gabriel Oak then left the room. He still
indecisively lingered beside the body. He was deeply
troubled at the wretchedly ironical aspect that
circumstances were putting on with regard to Troy's wife
and at his own powerlessness to counteract them. In spite
of his careful manoeuvring all this daythe very worst
event that could in any way have happened in connection with
the burial had happened now. Oak imagined a terrible
discovery resulting from this afternoon's work that might
cast over Bathsheba's life a shade which the interposition
of many lapsing years might but indifferently lightenand
which nothing at all might altogether remove.

Suddenlyas in a last attempt to save Bathsheba fromat
any rateimmediate anguishhe looked againas he had
looked beforeat the chalk writing upon the coffinlid. The
scrawl was this simple oneFANNY ROBIN AND CHILD.Gabriel
took his handkerchief and carefully rubbed out the two
latter wordsleaving visible the inscription "FANNY ROBIN"
only. He then left the roomand went out quietly by the
front door.

CHAPTER XLIII

FANNY'S REVENGE

DO you want me any longer ma'am?inquired Liddyat a
later hour the same eveningstanding by the door with a
chamber candlestick in her hand and addressing Bathsheba
who sat cheerless and alone in the large parlour beside the


first fire of the season.

No more to-night, Liddy.

I'll sit up for master if you like, ma'am. I am not at all
afraid of Fanny, if I may sit in my own room and have a
candle. She was such a childlike, nesh young thing that her
spirit couldn't appear to anybody if it tried, I'm quite
sure.

Oh no, no! You go to bed. I'll sit up for him myself till
twelve o'clock, and if he has not arrived by that time, I
shall give him up and go to bed too.

It is half-past ten now.

Oh! is it?

Why don't you sit upstairs, ma'am?

Why don't I?said Bathshebadesultorily. "It isn't worth
while -- there's a fire hereLiddy." She suddenly
exclaimed in an impulsive and excited whisperHave you
heard anything strange said of Fanny?" The words had no
sooner escaped her than an expression of unutterable regret
crossed her faceand she burst into tears.

No -- not a word!said Liddylooking at the weeping woman
with astonishment. "What is it makes you cry soma'am; has
anything hurt you?" She came to Bathsheba's side with a face
full of sympathy.

No, Liddy -- I don't want you any more. I can hardly say
why I have taken to crying lately: I never used to cry.
Good-night.

Liddy then left the parlour and closed the door.

Bathsheba was lonely and miserable now; not lonelier
actually than she had been before her marriage; but her
loneliness then was to that of the present time as the
solitude of a mountain is to the solitude of a cave. And
within the last day or two had come these disquieting
thoughts about her husband's past. Her wayward sentiment
that evening concerning Fanny's temporary resting-place had
been the result of a strange complication of impulses in
Bathsheba's bosom. Perhaps it would be more accurately
described as a determined rebellion against her prejudices
a revulsion from a lower instinct of uncharitablenesswhich
would have withheld all sympathy from the dead woman
because in life she had preceded Bathsheba in the attentions
of a man whom Bathsheba had by no means ceased from loving
though her love was sick to death just now with the gravity
of a further misgiving.

In five or ten minutes there was another tap at the door.
Liddy reappearedand coming in a little way stood
hesitatinguntil at length she saidMaryann has just
heard something very strange, but I know it isn't true. And
we shall be sure to know the rights of it in a day or two.

What is it?

Oh, nothing connected with you or us, ma'am. It is about


Fanny. That same thing you have heard.

I have heard nothing.

I mean that a wicked story is got to Weatherbury within
this last hour -- that ----Liddy came close to her
mistress and whispered the remainder of the sentence slowly
into her earinclining her head as she spoke in the
direction of the room where Fanny lay.

Bathsheba trembled from head to foot.

I don't believe it!she saidexcitedly. "And there's
only one name written on the coffin-cover."

Nor I, ma'am. And a good many others don't; for we should
surely have been told more about it if it had been true -don't
you think so, ma'am?

We might or we might not.

Bathsheba turned and looked into the firethat Liddy might
not see her face. Finding that her mistress was going to
say no moreLiddy glided outclosed the door softlyand
went to bed.

Bathsheba's faceas she continued looking into the fire
that eveningmight have excited solicitousness on her
account even among those who loved her least. The sadness
of Fanny Robin's fate did not make Bathsheba's glorious
although she was the Esther to this poor Vashtiand their
fates might be supposed to stand in some respects as
contrasts to each other. When Liddy came into the room a
second time the beautiful eyes which met hers had worn a
listlessweary look. When she went out after telling the
story they had expressed wretchedness in full activity. Her
simple contrary naturefed on old-fashioned principleswas
troubled by that which would have troubled a woman of the
world very littleboth Fanny and her childif she had one
being dead.

Bathsheba had grounds for conjecturing a connection between
her own history and the dimly suspected tragedy of Fanny's
end which Oak and Boldwood never for a moment credited her
with possessing. The meeting with the lonely woman on the
previous Saturday night had been unwitnessed and unspoken
of. Oak may have had the best of intentions in withholding
for as many days as possible the details of what had
happened to Fanny; but had he known that Bathsheba's
perceptions had already been exercised in the matterhe
would have done nothing to lengthen the minutes of suspense
she was now undergoingwhen the certainty which must
terminate it would be the worst fact suspected after all.

She suddenly felt a longing desire to speak to some one
stronger than herselfand so get strength to sustain her
surmised position with dignity and her lurking doubts with
stoicism. Where could she find such a friend? nowhere in
the house. She was by far the coolest of the women under
her roof. Patience and suspension of judgement for a few
hours were what she wanted to learnand there was nobody to
teach her. Might she but go to Gabriel Oak! -- but that
could not be. What a way Oak hadshe thoughtof enduring
things. Boldwoodwho seemed so much deeper and higher and


stronger in feeling than Gabrielhad not yet learntany
more than she herselfthe simple lesson which Oak showed a
mastery of by every turn and look he gave -- that among the
multitude of interests by which he was surroundedthose
which affected his personal well-being were not the most
absorbing and important in his eyes. Oak meditatively
looked upon the horizon of circumstances without any special
regard to his own standpoint in the midst. That was how she
would wish to be. But then Oak was not racked by
incertitude upon the inmost matter of his bosomas she was
at this moment. Oak knew all about Fanny that he wished to
know -- she felt convinced of that. If she were to go to
him now at once and say no more than these few wordsWhat
is the truth of the story?he would feel bound in honour to
tell her. It would be an inexpressible relief. No further
speech would need to be uttered. He knew her so well that
no eccentricity of behaviour in her would alarm him.

She flung a cloak round herwent to the door and opened it.
Every bladeevery twig was still. The air was yet thick
with moisturethough somewhat less dense than during the
afternoonand a steady smack of drops upon the fallen
leaves under the boughs was almost musical in its soothing
regularity. It seemed better to be out of the house than
within itand Bathsheba closed the doorand walked slowly
down the lane till she came opposite to Gabriel's cottage
where he now lived alonehaving left Coggan's house through
being pinched for room. There was a light in one window
onlyand that was downstairs. The shutters were not
closednor was any blind or curtain drawn over the window
neither robbery nor observation being a contingency which
could do much injury to the occupant of the domicile. Yes
it was Gabriel himself who was sitting up: he was reading.
From her standing-place in the road she could see him
plainlysitting quite stillhis light curly head upon his
handand only occasionally looking up to snuff the candle
which stood beside him. At length he looked at the clock
seemed surprised at the lateness of the hourclosed his
bookand arose. He was going to bedshe knewand if she
tapped it must be done at once.

Alas for her resolve! She felt she could not do it. Not
for worlds now could she give a hint about her misery to
himmuch less ask him plainly for information on the cause
of Fanny's death. She must suspectand guessand chafe
and bear it all alone.

Like a homeless wanderer she lingered by the bankas if
lulled and fascinated by the atmosphere of content which
seemed to spread from that little dwellingand was so sadly
lacking in her own. Gabriel appeared in an upper room
placed his light in the window-benchand then -- knelt down
to pray. The contrast of the picture with her rebellious
and agitated existence at this same time was too much for
her to bear to look upon longer. It was not for her to make
a truce with trouble by any such means. She must tread her
giddy distracting measure to its last noteas she had begun
it. With a swollen heart she went again up the laneand
entered her own door.

More fevered now by a reaction from the first feelings which
Oak's example had raised in hershe paused in the hall
looking at the door of the room wherein Fanny lay. She
locked her fingersthrew back her headand strained her


hot hands rigidly across her foreheadsayingwith a
hysterical sobWould to God you would speak and tell me
your secret, Fanny! ... Oh, I hope, hope it is not true that
there are two of you! ... If I could only look in upon you
for one little minute, I should know all!

A few moments passedand she addedslowlyAND I WILL

Bathsheba in after times could never gauge the mood which
carried her through the actions following this murmured
resolution on this memorable evening of her life. She went
to the lumber-closet for a screw-driver. At the end of a
short though undefined time she found herself in the small
roomquivering with emotiona mist before her eyesand an
excruciating pulsation in her brainstanding beside the
uncovered coffin of the girl whose conjectured end had so
entirely engrossed herand saying to herself in a husky
voice as she gazed within -


It was best to know the worst, and I know it now!

She was conscious of having brought about this situation by
a series of actions done as by one in an extravagant dream;
of following that idea as to methodwhich had burst upon
her in the hall with glaring obviousnessby gliding to the
top of the stairsassuring herself by listening to the
heavy breathing of her maids that they were asleepgliding
down againturning the handle of the door within which the
young girl layand deliberately setting herself to do what
if she had anticipated any such undertaking at night and
alonewould have horrified herbut whichwhen donewas
not so dreadful as was the conclusive proof of her husband's
conduct which came with knowing beyond doubt the last
chapter of Fanny's story.

Bathsheba's head sank upon her bosomand the breath which
had been bated in suspensecuriosityand interestwas
exhaled now in the form of a whispered wail: "Oh-h-h!" she
saidand the silent room added length to her moan.

Her tears fell fast beside the unconscious pair in the
coffin: tears of a complicated originof a nature
indescribablealmost indefinable except as other than those
of simple sorrow. Assuredly their wonted fires must have
lived in Fanny's ashes when events were so shaped as to
chariot her hither in this naturalunobtrusiveyet
effectual manner. The one feat alone -- that of dying -- by
which a mean condition could be resolved into a grand one
Fanny had achieved. And to that had destiny subjoined this
rencounter to-nightwhich hadin Bathsheba's wild
imaginingturned her companion's failure to successher
humiliation to triumphher lucklessness to ascendency; it
had thrown over herself a garish light of mockeryand set
upon all things about her an ironical smile.

Fanny's face was framed in by that yellow hair of hers; and
there was no longer much room for doubt as to the origin of
the curl owned by Troy. In Bathsheba's heated fancy the
innocent white countenance expressed a dim triumphant
consciousness of the pain she was retaliating for her pain
with all the merciless rigour of the Mosaic law: "Burning
for burning; wound for wound: strife for strife."

Bathsheba indulged in contemplations of escape from her


position by immediate deathwhichthought shethough it
was an inconvenient and awful wayhad limits to its
inconvenience and awfulness that could not be overpassed;
whilst the shames of life were measureless. Yet even this
scheme of extinction by death was but tamely copying her
rival's method without the reasons which had glorified it in
her rival's case. She glided rapidly up and down the room
as was mostly her habit when excitedher hands hanging
clasped in front of heras she thought and in part
expressed in broken words: "OI hate heryet I don't mean
that I hate herfor it is grievous and wicked; and yet I
hate her a little! yesmy flesh insists upon hating her
whether my spirit is willing or no!... If she had only
livedI could have been angry and cruel towards her with
some justification; but to be vindictive towards a poor dead
woman recoils upon myself. O Godhave mercy! I am
miserable at all this!"

Bathsheba became at this moment so terrified at her own
state of mind that she looked around for some sort of refuge
from herself. The vision of Oak kneeling down that night
recurred to herand with the imitative instinct which
animates women she seized upon the idearesolved to kneel
andif possiblepray. Gabriel had prayed; so would she.

She knelt beside the coffincovered her face with her
handsand for a time the room was silent as a tomb.
Whether from a purely mechanicalor from any other cause
when Bathsheba arose it was with a quieted spiritand a
regret for the antagonistic instincts which had seized upon
her just before.

In her desire to make atonement she took flowers from a vase
by the windowand began laying them around the dead girl's
head. Bathsheba knew no other way of showing kindness to
persons departed than by giving them flowers. She knew not
how long she remained engaged thus. She forgot timelife
where she waswhat she was doing. A slamming together of
the coach-house doors in the yard brought her to her-self
again. An instant afterthe front door opened and closed
steps crossed the halland her husband appeared at the
entrance to the roomlooking in upon her.

He beheld it all by degreesstared in stupefaction at the
sceneas if he thought it an illusion raised by some
fiendish incantation. Bathshebapallid as a corpse on end
gazed back at him in the same wild way.

So little are instinctive guesses the fruit of a legitimate
inductionthat at this momentas he stood with the door in
his handTroy never once thought of Fanny in connection
with what he saw. His first confused idea was that somebody
in the house had died.

Well -- what?said Troyblankly.

I must go! I must go!said Bathshebato herself more than
to him. She came with a dilated eye towards the doorto
push past him.

What's the matter, in God's name? who's dead?said Troy.

I cannot say; let me go out. I want air!she continued.


But no; stay, I insist!He seized her handand then
volition seemed to leave herand she went off into a state
of passivity. Hestill holding hercame up the roomand
thushand in handTroy and Bathsheba approached the
coffin's side.

The candle was standing on a bureau close by themand the
light slanted downdistinctly enkindling the cold features
of both mother and babe. Troy looked indropped his wife's
handknowledge of it all came over him in a lurid sheen
and he stood still.

So still he remained that he could be imagined to have left
in him no motive power whatever. The clashes of feeling in
all directions confounded one anotherproduced a
neutralityand there was motion in none.

Do you know her?said Bathshebain a small enclosed echo
as from the interior of a cell.

I do,said Troy.

Is it she?

It is.

He had originally stood perfectly erect. And nowin the
well-nigh congealed immobility of his frame could be
discerned an incipient movementas in the darkest night may
be discerned light after a while. He was gradually sinking
forwards. The lines of his features softenedand dismay
modulated to illimitable sadness. Bathsheba was regarding
him from the other sidestill with parted lips and
distracted eyes. Capacity for intense feeling is
proportionate to the general intensity of the natureand
perhaps in all Fanny's sufferingsmuch greater relatively
to her strengththere never was a time she suffered in an
absolute sense what Bathsheba suffered now.

What Troy did was to sink upon his knees with an indefinable
union of remorse and reverence upon his faceandbending
over Fanny Robingently kissed heras one would kiss an
infant asleep to avoid awakening it.

At the sight and sound of thatto herunendurable act
Bathsheba sprang towards him. All the strong feelings which
had been scattered over her existence since she knew what
feeling wasseemed gathered together into one pulsation
now. The revulsion from her indignant mood a little
earlierwhen she had meditated upon compromised honour
forestalmenteclipse in maternity by anotherwas violent
and entire. All that was forgotten in the simple and still
strong attachment of wife to husband. She had sighed for
her self-completeness thenand now she cried aloud against
the severance of the union she had deplored. She flung her
arms round Troy's neckexclaiming wildly from the deepest
deep of her heart -


Don't -- don't kiss them! O, Frank, I can't bear it -- I
can't! I love you better than she did: kiss me too, Frank -kiss
me! YOU WILL, FRANK, KISS ME TOO!

There was something so abnormal and startling in the
childlike pain and simplicity of this appeal from a woman of


Bathsheba's calibre and independencethat Troyloosening
her tightly clasped arms from his necklooked at her in
bewilderment. It was such an unexpected revelation of all
women being alike at hearteven those so different in their
accessories as Fanny and this one beside himthat Troy
could hardly seem to believe her to be his proud wife
Bathsheba. Fanny's own spirit seemed to be animating her
frame. But this was the mood of a few instants only. When
the momentary surprise had passedhis expression changed to
a silencing imperious gaze.

I will not kiss you!he said pushing her away.

Had the wife now but gone no further. Yetperhapsunder
the harrowing circumstancesto speak out was the one wrong
act which can be better understoodif not forgiven in her
than the right and politic oneher rival being now but a
corpse. All the feeling she had been betrayed into showing
she drew back to herself again by a strenuous effort of
self-command.

What have you to say as your reason?she asked her bitter
voice being strangely low -- quite that of another woman
now.

I have to say that I have been a bad, black-hearted man,
he answered.

And that this woman is your victim; and I not less than
she.

Ah! don't taunt me, madam. This woman is more to me, dead
as she is, than ever you were, or are, or can be. If Satan
had not tempted me with that face of yours, and those cursed
coquetries, I should have married her. I never had another
thought till you came in my way. Would to God that I had;
but it is all too late! He turned to Fanny then. But
never minddarling he said; in the sight of Heaven you
are my veryvery wife!"

At these words there arose from Bathsheba's lips a longlow
cry of measureless despair and indignationsuch a wail of
anguish as had never before been heard within those oldinhabited
walls. It was the [GREEK word meaning "it is
finished"] of her union with Troy.

If she's -- that, -- what -- am I?she addedas a
continuation of the same cryand sobbing pitifully: and the
rarity with her of such abandonment only made the condition
more dire.

You are nothing to me -- nothing,said Troyheartlessly.
A ceremony before a priest doesn't make a marriage. I am
not morally yours.

A vehement impulse to flee from himto run from this place
hideand escape his words at any pricenot stopping short
of death itselfmastered Bathsheba now. She waited not an
instantbut turned to the door and ran out.

CHAPTER XLIV


UNDER A TREE -- REACTION

BATHSHEBA went along the dark roadneither knowing nor
caring about the direction or issue of her flight. The
first time that she definitely noticed her position was when
she reached a gate leading into a thicket over-hung by some
large oak and beech trees. On looking into the placeit
occurred to her that she had seen it by daylight on some
previous occasionand that what appeared like an impassable
thicket was in reality a brake of fern now withering fast.
She could think of nothing better to do with her palpitating
self than to go in here and hide; and enteringshe lighted
on a spot sheltered from the damp fog by a reclining trunk
where she sank down upon a tangled couch of fronds and
stems. She mechanically pulled some armfuls round her to
keep off the breezesand closed her eyes.

Whether she slept or not that night Bathsheba was not
clearly aware. But it was with a freshened existence and a
cooler brain thata long time afterwardsshe became
conscious of some interesting proceedings which were going
on in the trees above her head and around.

A coarse-throated chatter was the first sound.

It was a sparrow just waking.

Next: "Chee-weeze-weeze-weeze!" from another retreat.

It was a finch.

Third: "Tink-tink-tink-tink-a-chink!" from the hedge.

It was a robin.

Chuck-chuck-chuck!overhead.

A squirrel.

Thenfrom the roadWith my ra-ta-ta, and my rum-tum-tum!

It was a ploughboy. Presently he came oppositeand she
believed from his voice that he was one of the boys on her
own farm. He was followed by a shambling tramp of heavy
feetand looking through the ferns Bathsheba could just
discern in the wan light of daybreak a team of her own
horses. They stopped to drink at a pond on the other side
of the way. She watched them flouncing into the pool
drinkingtossing up their headsdrinking againthe water
dribbling from their lips in silver threads. There was
another flounceand they came out of the pondand turned
back again towards the farm.

She looked further around. Day was just dawningand beside
its cool air and colours her heated actions and resolves of
the night stood out in lurid contrast. She perceived that
in her lapand clinging to her hairwere red and yellow
leaves which had come down from the tree and settled
silently upon her during her partial sleep. Bathsheba shook
her dress to get rid of themwhen multitudes of the same
family lying round about her rose and fluttered away in the
breeze thus createdlike ghosts from an enchanter
fleeing.


There was an opening towards the eastand the glow from the
as yet unrisen sun attracted her eyes thither. From her
feetand between the beautiful yellowing ferns with their
feathery armsthe ground sloped downwards to a hollowin
which was a species of swampdotted with fungi. A morning
mist hung over it now -- a fulsome yet magnificent silvery
veilfull of light from the sunyet semi-opaque -- the
hedge behind it being in some measure hidden by its hazy
luminousness. Up the sides of this depression grew sheaves
of the common rushand here and there a peculiar species of
flagthe blades of which glistened in the emerging sun
like scythes. But the general aspect of the swamp was
malignant. From its moist and poisonous coat seemed to be
exhaled the essences of evil things in the earthand in the
waters under the earth. The fungi grew in all manner of
positions from rotting leaves and tree stumpssome
exhibiting to her listless gaze their clammy topsothers
their oozing gills. Some were marked with great splotches
red as arterial bloodothers were saffron yellowand
others tall and attenuatedwith stems like macaroni. Some
were leathery and of richest browns. The hollow seemed a
nursery of pestilences small and greatin the immediate
neighbourhood of comfort and healthand Bathsheba arose
with a tremor at the thought of having passed the night on
the brink of so dismal a place.

There were now other footsteps to be heard along the road.
Bathsheba's nerves were still unstrung: she crouched down
out of sight again, and the pedestrian came into view. He
was a schoolboy, with a bag slung over his shoulder
containing his dinner, and a hook in his hand. He paused by
the gate, and, without looking up, continued murmuring words
in tones quite loud enough to reach her ears.

'O LordO LordO LordO LordO Lord': -- that I know
out o' book. 'Give usgive usgive usgive usgive us':
-- that I know. 'Grace thatgrace thatgrace thatgrace
that': -- that I know." Other words followed to the same
effect. The boy was of the dunce class apparently; the book
was a psalterand this was his way of learning the collect.
In the worst attacks of trouble there appears to be always a
superficial film of consciousness which is left disengaged
and open to the notice of triflesand Bathsheba was faintly
amused at the boy's methodtill he too passed on.

By this time stupor had given place to anxietyand anxiety
began to make room for hunger and thirst. A form now
appeared upon the rise on the other side of the swamphalfhidden
by the mistand came towards Bathsheba. The woman -for
it was a woman -- approached with her face askanceas
if looking earnestly on all sides of her. When she got a
little further round to the leftand drew nearerBathsheba
could see the newcomer's profile against the sunny skyand
knew the wavy sweep from forehead to chinwith neither
angle nor decisive line anywhere about itto be the
familiar contour of Liddy Smallbury.

Bathsheba's heart bounded with gratitude in the thought that
she was not altogether desertedand she jumped up. "Oh
Liddy!" she saidor attempted to say; but the words had
only been framed by her lips; there came no sound. She had
lost her voice by exposure to the clogged atmosphere all
these hours of night.


Oh, ma'am! I am so glad I have found you,said the girl
as soon as she saw Bathsheba.

You can't come across,Bathsheba said in a whisperwhich
she vainly endeavoured to make loud enough to reach Liddy's
ears. Liddynot knowing thisstepped down upon the swamp
sayingas she did soIt will bear me up, I think.

Bathsheba never forgot that transient little picture of
Liddy crossing the swamp to her there in the morning light.
Iridescent bubbles of dank subterranean breath rose from the
sweating sod beside the waiting maid's feet as she trod
hissing as they burst and expanded away to join the vapoury
firmament above. Liddy did not sinkas Bathsheba had
anticipated.

She landed safely on the other sideand looked up at the
beautiful though pale and weary face of her young mistress.

Poor thing!said Liddywith tears in her eyesDo
hearten yourself up a little, ma'am. However did ----

I can't speak above a whisper -- my voice is gone for the
present,said Bathshebahurriedly. "I suppose the damp
air from that hollow has taken it away Liddydon't question
memind. Who sent you -- anybody?"

Nobody. I thought, when I found you were not at home, that
something cruel had happened. I fancy I heard his voice
late last night; and so, knowing something was wrong ----

Is he at home?

No; he left just before I came out.

Is Fanny taken away?

Not yet. She will soon be -- at nine o'clock.

We won't go home at present, then. Suppose we walk about
in this wood?

Liddywithout exactly understanding everythingor
anythingin this episodeassentedand they walked
together further among the trees.

But you had better come in, ma'am, and have something to
eat. You will die of a chill!

I shall not come indoors yet -- perhaps never.

Shall I get you something to eat, and something else to put
over your head besides that little shawl?

If you will, Liddy.

Liddy vanishedand at the end of twenty minutes returned
with a cloakhatsome slices of bread and buttera teacup
and some hot tea in a little china jug

Is Fanny gone?said Bathsheba.

No,said her companionpouring out the tea.


Bathsheba wrapped herself up and ate and drank sparingly.
Her voice was then a little clearerand trifling colour
returned to her face. "Now we'll walk about again she
said.

They wandered about the wood for nearly two hours, Bathsheba
replying in monosyllables to Liddy's prattle, for her mind
ran on one subject, and one only. She interrupted with --

I wonder if Fanny is gone by this time?"

I will go and see.

She came back with the information that the men were just
taking away the corpse; that Bathsheba had been inquired
for; that she had replied to the effect that her mistress
was unwell and could not be seen.

Then they think I am in my bedroom?

Yes.Liddy then ventured to add: "You said when I first
found you that you might never go home again -- you didn't
mean itma'am?"

No; I've altered my mind. It is only women with no pride
in them who run away from their husbands. There is one
position worse than that of being found dead in your
husband's house from his ill usage, and that is, to be found
alive through having gone away to the house of somebody
else. I've thought of it all this morning, and I've chosen
my course. A runaway wife is an encumbrance to everybody, a
burden to herself and a byword -- all of which make up a
heap of misery greater than any that comes by staying at
home -- though this may include the trifling items of
insult, beating, and starvation. Liddy, if ever you marry --
God forbid that you ever should! -- you'll find yourself
in a fearful situation; but mind this, don't you flinch.
Stand your ground, and be cut to pieces. That's what I'm
going to do.

Oh, mistress, don't talk so!said Liddytaking her hand;
but I knew you had too much sense to bide away. May I ask
what dreadful thing it is that has happened between you and
him?

You may ask; but I may not tell.

In about ten minutes they returned to the house by a
circuitous routeentering at the rear. Bathsheba glided up
the back stairs to a disused atticand her companion
followed.

Liddy,she saidwith a lighter heartfor youth and hope
had begun to reassert themselves;" you are to be my
confidante for the present -- somebody must be -- and I
choose you. WellI shall take up my abode here for a
while. Will you get a fire lightedput down a piece of
carpetand help me to make the place comfortable.
AfterwardsI want you and Maryann to bring up that little
stump bedstead in the small roomand the bed belonging to
itand a tableand some other things.... What shall I do
to pass the heavy time away?"


Hemming handkerchiefs is a very good thing,said Liddy.

Oh no, no! I hate needlework -- I always did.

Knitting?

And that, too.

You might finish your sampler. Only the carnations and
peacocks want filling in; and then it could be framed and
glazed, and hung beside your aunt's ma'am.

Samplers are out of date -- horribly countrified. No
Liddy, I'll read. Bring up some books -- not new ones.
haven't heart to read anything new.

Some of your uncle's old ones, ma'am?

Yes. Some of those we stowed away in boxes.A faint
gleam of humour passed over her face as she said: "Bring
Beaumont and Fletcher's MAID'S TRAGEDYand the MOURNING
BRIDEand let me see -- NIGHT THOUGHTSand the VANITY OF
HUMAN WISHES."

And that story of the black man, who murdered his wife
Desdemona? It is a nice dismal one that would suit you
excellent just now.

Now, Liddy, you've been looking into my books without
telling me; and I said you were not to! How do you know it
would suit me? It wouldn't suit me a all.

But if the others do ----

No, they don't; and I won't read dismal books. Why should
I read dismal books, indeed? Bring me LOVE IN A VILLAGE,
and MAID OF THE MILL, and DOCTOR SYNTAX, and some volumes of
the SPECTATOR.

All that day Bathsheba and Liddy lived in the attic in a
state of barricade; a precaution which proved to be needless
as against Troyfor he did not appear in the neighbourhood
or trouble them at all. Bathsheba sat at the window till
sunsetsometimes attempting to readat other times
watching every movement outside without much purposeand
listening without much interest to every sound.

The sun went down almost blood-red that nightand a livid
cloud received its rays in the east. Up against this dark
background the west front of the church tower -- the only
part of the edifice visible from the farm-house windows -rose
distinct and lustrousthe vane upon the summit
bristling with rays. Hereaboutsat six o'clockthe young
men of the village gatheredas was their customfor a game
of Prisoners' base. The spot had been consecrated to this
ancient diversion from time immemorialthe old stocks
conveniently forming a base facing the boundary of the
churchyardin front of which the ground was trodden hard
and bare as a pavement by the players. She could see the
brown and black heads of the young lads darting about right
and lefttheir white shirt-sleeves gleaming in the sun;
whilst occasionally a shout and a peal of hearty laughter
varied the stillness of the evening air. They continued
playing for a quarter of an hour or sowhen the game


concluded abruptlyand the players leapt over the wall and
vanished round to the other side behind a yew-treewhich
was also half behind a beechnow spreading in one mass of
golden foliageon which the branches traced black lines.

Why did the base-players finish their game so suddenly?
Bathsheba inquiredthe next time that Liddy entered the
room.

I think 'twas because two men came just then from
Casterbridge and began putting up a grand carved tombstone,
said Liddy. "The lads went to see whose it was."

Do you know?Bathsheba asked.

I don't,said Liddy.

CHAPTER XLV

TROY'S ROMANTICISM

WHEN Troy's wife had left the house at the previous midnight
his first act was to cover the dead from sight. This done
he ascended the stairsand throwing himself down upon the
bed dressed as he washe waited miserably for the morning.

Fate had dealt grimly with him through the last four-andtwenty
hours. His day had been spent in a way which varied
very materially from his intentions regarding it. There is
always an inertia to be overcome in striking out a new line
of conduct -- not more in ourselvesit seemsthan in
circumscribing eventswhich appear as if leagued together
to allow no novelties in the way of amelioration.

Twenty pounds having been secured from Bathshebahe had
managed to add to the sum every farthing he could muster on
his own accountwhich had been seven pounds ten. With this
moneytwenty-seven pounds ten in allhe had hastily driven
from the gate that morning to keep his appointment with
Fanny Robin.

On reaching Casterbridge he left the horse and trap at an
innand at five minutes before ten came back to the bridge
at the lower end of the townand sat himself upon the
parapet. The clocks struck the hourand no Fanny appeared.
In factat that moment she was being robed in her graveclothes
by two attendants at the Union poorhouse -- the
first and last tiring-women the gentle creature had ever
been honoured with. The quarter wentthe half hour. A
rush of recollection came upon Troy as he waited: this was
the second time she had broken a serious engagement with
him. In anger he vowed it should be the lastand at eleven
o'clockwhen he had lingered and watched the stone of the
bridge till he knew every lichen upon their face and heard
the chink of the ripples underneath till they oppressed him
he jumped from his seatwent to the inn for his gigand in
a bitter mood of indifference concerning the pastand
recklessness about the futuredrove on to Budmouth races.

He reached the race-course at two o'clockand remained
either there or in the town till nine. But Fanny's image


as it had appeared to him in the sombre shadows of that
Saturday eveningreturned to his mindbacked up by
Bathsheba's reproaches. He vowed he would not betand he
kept his vowfor on leaving the town at nine o'clock in the
evening he had diminished his cash only to the extent of a
few shillings.

He trotted slowly homewardand it was now that he was
struck for the first time with a thought that Fanny had been
really prevented by illness from keeping her promise. This
time she could have made no mistake. He regretted that he
had not remained in Casterbridge and made inquiries.
Reaching home he quietly unharnessed the horse and came
indoorsas we have seento the fearful shock that awaited
him.

As soon as it grew light enough to distinguish objectsTroy
arose from the coverlet of the bedand in a mood of
absolute indifference to Bathsheba's whereaboutsand almost
oblivious of her existencehe stalked downstairs and left
the house by the back door. His walk was towards the
churchyardentering which he searched around till he found
a newly dug unoccupied grave -- the grave dug the day before
for Fanny. The position of this having been markedhe
hastened on to Casterbridgeonly pausing and musing for a
while at the hill whereon he had last seen Fanny alive.

Reaching the townTroy descended into a side street and
entered a pair of gates surmounted by a board bearing the
wordsLester, stone and marble mason.Within were lying
about stones of all sizes and designsinscribed as being
sacred to the memory of unnamed persons who had not yet
died.

Troy was so unlike himself now in lookwordand deedthat
the want of likeness was perceptible even to his own
consciousness. His method of engaging himself in this
business of purchasing a tomb was that of an absolutely
unpractised man. He could not bring himself to consider
calculateor economize. He waywardly wished for something
and he set about obtaining it like a child in a nursery. "I
want a good tomb he said to the man who stood in a little
office within the yard. I want as good a one as you can
give me for twenty-seven pounds."

It was all the money he possessed.

That sum to include everything?

Everything. Cutting the name, carriage to Weatherbury, and
erection. And I want it now at once .

We could not get anything special worked this week.

I must have it now."

If you would like one of these in stock it could be got
ready immediately.

Very well,said Troyimpatiently. "Let's see what you
have."

The best I have in stock is this one,said the stone



cuttergoing into a shed. "Here's a marble headstone
beautifully crocketedwith medallions beneath of typical
subjects; here's the footstone after the same patternand
here's the coping to enclose the grave. The polishing alone
of the set cost me eleven pounds -- the slabs are the best
of their kindand I can warrant them to resist rain and
frost for a hundred years without flying."

And how much?

Well, I could add the name, and put it up at Weatherbury
for the sum you mention.

Get it done to-day, and I'll pay the money now.

The man agreedand wondered at such a mood in a visitor who
wore not a shred of mourning. Troy then wrote the words
which were to form the inscriptionsettled the account and
went away. In the afternoon he came back againand found
that the lettering was almost done. He waited in the yard
till the tomb was packedand saw it placed in the cart and
starting on its way to Weatherburygiving directions to the
two men who were to accompany it to inquire of the sexton
for the grave of the person named in the inscription.

It was quite dark when Troy came out of Casterbridge. He
carried rather a heavy basket upon his armwith which he
strode moodily along the roadresting occasionally at
bridges and gateswhereon he deposited his burden for a
time. Midway on his journey he metreturning in the
darknessthe men and the waggon which had conveyed the
tomb. He merely inquired if the work was doneandon
being assured that it waspassed on again.

Troy entered Weatherbury churchyard about ten o'clock and
went immediately to the corner where he had marked the
vacant grave early in the morning. It was on the obscure
side of the towerscreened to a great extent from the view
of passers along the road -- a spot which until lately had
been abandoned to heaps of stones and bushes of alderbut
now it was cleared and made orderly for intermentsby
reason of the rapid filling of the ground elsewhere.

Here now stood the tomb as the men had statedsnow-white
and shapely in the gloomconsisting of head and foot-stone
and enclosing border of marble-work uniting them. In the
midst was mouldsuitable for plants.

Troy deposited his basket beside the tomband vanished for
a few minutes. When he returned he carried a spade and a
lanternthe light of which he directed for a few moments
upon the marblewhilst he read the inscription. He hung
his lantern on the lowest bough of the yew-treeand took
from his basket flower-roots of several varieties. There
were bundles of snow-drophyacinth and crocus bulbs
violets and double daisieswhich were to bloom in early
springand of carnationspinkspicoteeslilies of the
valleyforget-me-notsummer's farewellmeadow-saffron and
othersfor the later seasons of the year.

Troy laid these out upon the grassand with an impassive
face set to work to plant them. The snowdrops were arranged
in a line on the outside of the copingthe remainder within
the enclosure of the grave. The crocuses and hyacinths were


to grow in rows; some of the summer flowers he placed over
her head and feetthe lilies and forget-me-nots over her
heart. The remainder were dispersed in the spaces between
these.

Troyin his prostration at this timehad no perception
that in the futility of these romantic doingsdictated by a
remorseful reaction from previous indifferencethere was
any element of absurdity. Deriving his idiosyncrasies from
both sides of the Channelhe showed at such junctures as
the present the inelasticity of the Englishmantogether
with that blindness to the line where sentiment verges on
mawkishnesscharacteristic of the French.

It was a cloudymuggyand very dark nightand the rays
from Troy's lantern spread into the two old yews with a
strange illuminating powerflickeringas it seemedup to
the black ceiling of cloud above. He felt a large drop of
rain upon the back of his handand presently one came and
entered one of the holes of the lanternwhereupon the
candle sputtered and went out. Troy was weary and it being
now not far from midnightand the rain threatening to
increasehe resolved to leave the finishing touches of his
labour until the day should break. He groped along the wall
and over the graves in the dark till he found himself round
at the north side. Here he entered the porchand
reclining upon the bench withinfell asleep.

CHAPTER XLVI

THE GURGOYLE: ITS DOINGS

THE tower of Weatherbury Church was a square erection of
fourteenth-century datehaving two stone gurgoyles on each
of the four faces of its parapet. Of these eight carved
protuberances only two at this time continued to serve the
purpose of their erection -- that of spouting the water from
the lead roof within. One mouth in each front had been
closed by bygone church-wardens as superfluousand two
others were broken away and choked -- a matter not of much
consequence to the wellbeing of the towerfor the two
mouths which still remained open and active were gaping
enough to do all the work.

It has been sometimes argued that there is no truer
criterion of the vitality of any given art-period than the
power of the master-spirits of that time in grotesque; and
certainly in the instance of Gothic art there is no
disputing the proposition. Weatherbury tower was a somewhat
early instance of the use of an ornamental parapet in parish
as distinct from cathedral churchesand the gurgoyles
which are the necessary correlatives of a parapetwere
exceptionally prominent -- of the boldest cut that the hand
could shapeand of the most original design that a human
brain could conceive. There wasso to speakthat symmetry
in their distortion which is less the characteristic of
British than of Continental grotesques of the period. All
the eight were different from each other. A beholder was
convinced that nothing on earth could be more hideous than
those he saw on the north side until he went round to the
south. Of the two on this latter faceonly that at the


south-eastern corner concerns the story. It was too human
to be called like a dragontoo impish to be like a mantoo
animal to be like a fiendand not enough like a bird to be
called a griffin. This horrible stone entity was fashioned
as if covered with a wrinkled hide; it had shorterect
earseyes starting from their socketsand its fingers and
hands were seizing the corners of its mouthwhich they thus
seemed to pull open to give free passage to the water it
vomited. The lower row of teeth was quite washed away
though the upper still remained. Here and thusjutting a
couple of feet from the wall against which its feet rested
as a supportthe creature had for four hundred years
laughed at the surrounding landscapevoicelessly in dry
weatherand in wet with a gurgling and snorting sound.

Troy slept on in the porchand the rain increased outside.
Presently the gurgoyle spat. In due time a small stream
began to trickle through the seventy feet of aerial space
between its mouth and the groundwhich the water-drops
smote like duckshot in their accelerated velocity. The
stream thickened in substanceand increased in power
gradually spouting further and yet further from the side of
the tower. When the rain fell in a steady and ceaseless
torrent the stream dashed downward in volumes.

We follow its course to the ground at this point of time.
The end of the liquid parabola has come forward from the
wallhas advanced over the plinth mouldingsover a heap of
stonesover the marble borderinto the midst of Fanny
Robin's grave.

The force of the stream haduntil very latelybeen
received upon some loose stones spread thereaboutwhich had
acted as a shield to the soil under the onset. These during
the summer had been cleared from the groundand there was
now nothing to resist the down-fall but the bare earth. For
several years the stream had not spouted so far from the
tower as it was doing on this nightand such a contingency
had been over-looked. Sometimes this obscure corner
received no inhabitant for the space of two or three years
and then it was usually but a paupera poacheror other
sinner of undignified sins.

The persistent torrent from the gurgoyle's jaws directed all
its vengeance into the grave. The rich tawny mould was
stirred into motionand boiled like chocolate. The water
accumulated and washed deeper downand the roar of the pool
thus formed spread into the night as the head and chief
among other noises of the kind created by the deluging rain.
The flowers so carefully planted by Fanny's repentant lover
began to move and writhe in their bed. The winter-violets
turned slowly upside downand became a mere mat of mud.
Soon the snowdrop and other bulbs danced in the boiling mass
like ingredients in a cauldron. Plants of the tufted
species were loosenedrose to the surfaceand floated off.

Troy did not awake from his comfortless sleep till it was
broad day. Not having been in bed for two nights his
shoulders felt stiff his feet tenderand his head heavy.
He remembered his positionaroseshiveredtook the spade
and again went out.

The rain had quite ceasedand the sun was shining through
the greenbrownand yellow leavesnow sparkling and


varnished by the raindrops to the brightness of similar
effects in the landscapes of Ruysdael and Hobbemaand full
of all those infinite beauties that arise from the union of
water and colour with high lights. The air was rendered so
transparent by the heavy fall of rain that the autumn hues
of the middle distance were as rich as those near at hand
and the remote fields intercepted by the angle of the tower
appeared in the same plane as the tower itself.

He entered the gravel path which would take him behind the
tower. The pathinstead of being stony as it had been the
night beforewas browned over with a thin coating of mud.
At one place in the path he saw a tuft of stringy roots
washed white and clean as a bundle of tendons. He picked it
up -- surely it could not be one of the primroses he had
planted? He saw a bulbanotherand another as he
advanced. Beyond doubt they were the crocuses. With a face
of perplexed dismay Troy turned the corner and then beheld
the wreck the stream had made.

The pool upon the grave had soaked away into the groundand
in its place was a hollow. The disturbed earth was washed
over the grass and pathway in the guise of the brown mud he
had already seenand it spotted the marble tombstone with
the same stains. Nearly all the flowers were washed clean
out of the groundand they layroots upwardson the spots
whither they had been splashed by the stream.

Troy's brow became heavily contracted. He set his teeth
closelyand his compressed lips moved as those of one in
great pain. This singular accidentby a strange confluence
of emotions in himwas felt as the sharpest sting of all.
Troy's face was very expressiveand any observer who had
seen him now would hardly have believed him to be a man who
had laughedand sungand poured love-trifles into a
woman's ear. To curse his miserable lot was at first his
impulsebut even that lowest stage of rebellion needed an
activity whose absence was necessarily antecedent to the
existence of the morbid misery which wrung him. The sight
coming as it didsuperimposed upon the other dark scenery
of the previous daysformed a sort of climax to the whole
panoramaand it was more than he could endure. Sanguine by
natureTroy had a power of eluding grief by simply
adjourning it. He could put off the consideration of any
particular spectre till the matter had become old and
softened by time. The planting of flowers on Fanny's grave
had been perhaps but a species of elusion of the primary
griefand now it was as if his intention had been known and
circumvented.

Almost for the first time in his lifeTroyas he stood by
this dismantled gravewished himself another man. It is
seldom that a person with much animal spirit does not feel
that the fact of his life being his own is the one
qualification which singles it out as a more hopeful life
than that of others who may actually resemble him in every
particular. Troy had feltin his transient wayhundreds
of timesthat he could not envy other people their
conditionbecause the possession of that condition would
have necessitated a different personalitywhen he desired
no other than his own. He had not minded the peculiarities
of his birththe vicissitudes of his lifethe meteor-like
uncertainty of all that related to himbecause these
appertained to the hero of his storywithout whom there


would have been no story at all for him; and it seemed to be
only in the nature of things that matters would right
themselves at some proper date and wind up well. This very
morning the illusion completed its disappearanceandas it
wereall of a suddenTroy hated himself. The suddenness
was probably more apparent than real. A coral reef which
just comes short of the ocean surface is no more to the
horizon than if it had never been begunand the mere
finishing stroke is what often appears to create an event
which has long been potentially an accomplished thing.

He stood and mediated -- a miserable man. Whither should he
go? "He that is accursedlet him be accursed still was
the pitiless anathema written in this spoliated effort of
his new-born solicitousness. A man who has spent his primal
strength in journeying in one direction has not much spirit
left for reversing his course. Troy had, since yesterday,
faintly reversed his; but the merest opposition had
disheartened him. To turn about would have been hard enough
under the greatest providential encouragement; but to find
that Providence, far from helping him into a new course, or
showing any wish that he might adopt one, actually jeered
his first trembling and critical attempt in that kind, was
more than nature could bear.

He slowly withdrew from the grave. He did not attempt to
fill up the hole, replace the flowers, or do anything at
all. He simply threw up his cards and forswore his game for
that time and always. Going out of the churchyard silently
and unobserved -- none of the villagers having yet risen -he
passed down some fields at the back, and emerged just as
secretly upon the high road. Shortly afterwards he had gone
from the village.

Meanwhile, Bathsheba remained a voluntary prisoner in the
attic. The door was kept locked, except during the entries
and exits of Liddy, for whom a bed had been arranged in a
small adjoining room. The light of Troy's lantern in the
churchyard was noticed about ten o'clock by the maidservant,
who casually glanced from the window in that
direction whilst taking her supper, and she called
Bathsheba's attention to it. They looked curiously at the
phenomenon for a time, until Liddy was sent to bed.

Bathsheba did not sleep very heavily that night. When her
attendant was unconscious and softly breathing in the next
room, the mistress of the house was still looking out of the
window at the faint gleam spreading from among the trees -not
in a steady shine, but blinking like a revolving
coastlight, though this appearance failed to suggest to her
that a person was passing and repassing in front of it.
Bathsheba sat here till it began to rain, and the light
vanished, when she withdrew to lie restlessly in her bed and
re-enact in a worn mind the lurid scene of yesternight.

Almost before the first faint sign of dawn appeared she
arose again, and opened the window to obtain a full
breathing of the new morning air, the panes being now wet
with trembling tears left by the night rain, each one
rounded with a pale lustre caught from primrose-hued slashes
through a cloud low down in the awakening sky. From the
trees came the sound of steady dripping upon the drifted
leaves under them, and from the direction of the church she
could hear another noise -- peculiar, and not intermittent


like the rest, the purl of water falling into a pool.

Liddy knocked at eight o'clock, and Bathsheba un-locked the
door.

What a heavy rain we've had in the nightma'am!" said
Liddywhen her inquiries about breakfast had been made.

Yes, very heavy.

Did you hear the strange noise from the church yard?

I heard one strange noise. I've been thinking it must have
been the water from the tower spouts.

Well, that's what the shepherd was saying, ma'am. He's now
gone on to see.

Oh! Gabriel has been here this morning!

Only just looked in in passing -- quite in his old way,
which I thought he had left off lately. But the tower
spouts used to spatter on the stones, and we are puzzled,
for this was like the boiling of a pot.

Not being able to readthinkor workBathsheba asked
Liddy to stay and breakfast with her. The tongue of the
more childish woman still ran upon recent events. "Are you
going across to the churchma'am?" she asked.

Not that I know of,said Bathsheba.

I thought you might like to go and see where they have put
Fanny. The trees hide the place from your window.

Bathsheba had all sorts of dreads about meeting her husband.
Has Mr. Troy been in to-night?she said

No, ma'am; I think he's gone to Budmouth.

Budmouth! The sound of the word carried with it a much
diminished perspective of him and his deeds; there were
thirteen miles interval betwixt them now. She hated
questioning Liddy about her husband's movements, and indeed
had hitherto sedulously avoided doing so; but now all the
house knew that there had been some dreadful disagreement
between them, and it was futile to attempt disguise.
Bathsheba had reached a stage at which people cease to have
any appreciative regard for public opinion.

What makes you think he has gone there?" she said.

Laban Tall saw him on the Budmouth road this morning before
breakfast.

Bathsheba was momentarily relieved of that wayward heaviness
of the past twenty-four hours which had quenched the
vitality of youth in her without substituting the philosophy
of maturer yearsand she resolved to go out and walk a
little way. So when breakfast was overshe put on her
bonnetand took a direction towards the church. It was
nine o'clockand the men having returned to work again from
their first mealshe was not likely to meet many of them in
the road. Knowing that Fanny had been laid in the


reprobates' quarter of the graveyardcalled in the parish
behind church,which was invisible from the roadit was
impossible to resist the impulse to enter and look upon a
spot whichfrom nameless feelingsshe at the same time
dreaded to see. She had been unable to overcome an
impression that some connection existed between her rival
and the light through the trees.

Bathsheba skirted the buttressand beheld the hole and the
tombits delicately veined surface splashed and stained
just as Troy had seen it and left it two hours earlier. On
the other side of the scene stood Gabriel. His eyestoo
were fixed on the tomband her arrival having been
noiselessshe had not as yet attracted his attention.
Bathsheba did not at once perceive that the grand tomb and
the disturbed grave were Fanny'sand she looked on both
sides and around for some humbler moundearthed up and
clodded in the usual way. Then her eye followed Oak'sand
she read the words with which the inscription opened: -


Erected by Francis Troy in Beloved Memory of
Fanny Robin.


Oak saw herand his first act was to gaze inquiringly and
learn how she received this knowledge of the authorship of
the workwhich to himself had caused considerable
astonishment. But such discoveries did not much affect her
now. Emotional convulsions seemed to have become the
commonplaces of her historyand she bade him good morning
and asked him to fill in the hole with the spade which was
standing by. Whilst Oak was doing as she desiredBathsheba
collected the flowersand began planting them with that
sympathetic manipulation of roots and leaves which is so
conspicuous in a woman's gardeningand which flowers seem
to understand and thrive upon. She requested Oak to get the
churchwardens to turn the leadwork at the mouth of the
gurgoyle that hung gaping down upon themthat by this means
the stream might be directed sidewaysand a repetition of
the accident prevented. Finallywith the superfluous
magnanimity of a woman whose narrower instincts have brought
down bitterness upon her instead of loveshe wiped the mud
spots from the tomb as if she rather liked its words than
otherwiseand went again home. [1]

[1] The local tower and churchyard do not answer precisely
to the foregoing description.
CHAPTER XLVII

ADVENTURES BY THE SHORE

TROY wandered along towards the south. A composite feeling
made up of disgust with theto himhumdrum tediousness of
a farmer's lifegloomily images of her who lay in the
churchyardremorseand a general averseness to his wife's
societyimpelled him to seek a home in any place on earth
save Weatherbury. The sad accessories of Fanny's end
confronted him as vivid pictures which threatened to be
indelibleand made life in Bathsheba's house intolerable.


At three in the afternoon he found himself at the foot of a
slope more than a mile in lengthwhich ran to the ridge of
a range of hills lying parallel with the shoreand forming
a monotonous barrier between the basin of cultivated country
inland and the wilder scenery of the coast. Up the hill
stretched a road nearly straight and perfectly whitethe
two sides approaching each other in a gradual taper till
they met the sky at the top about two miles off. Throughout
the length of this narrow and irksome inclined plane not a
sign of life was visible on this garish afternoon. Troy
toiled up the road with a languor and depression greater
than any he had experienced for many a day and year before.
The air was warm and muggyand the top seemed to recede as
he approached.

At last he reached the summitand a wide and novel prospect
burst upon him with an effect almost like that of the
Pacific upon Balboa's gaze. The broad steely seamarked
only by faint lineswhich had a semblance of being etched
thereon to a degree not deep enough to disturb its general
evennessstretched the whole width of his front and round
to the rightwherenear the town and port of Budmouththe
sun bristled down upon itand banished all colourto
substitute in its place a clear oily polish. Nothing moved
in skylandor seaexcept a frill of milkwhite foam along
the nearer angles of the shoreshreds of which licked the
contiguous stones like tongues.

He descended and came to a small basin of sea enclosed by
the cliffs. Troy's nature freshened within him; he thought
he would rest and bathe here before going farther. He
undressed and plunged in. Inside the cove the water was
uninteresting to a swimmerbeing smooth as a pondand to
get a little of the ocean swellTroy presently swam between
the two projecting spurs of rock which formed the pillars of
Hercules to this miniature Mediterranean. Unfortunately for
Troy a current unknown to him existed outsidewhich
unimportant to craft of any burdenwas awkward for a
swimmer who might be taken in it unawares. Troy found
himself carried to the left and then round in a swoop out to
sea.

He now recollected the place and its sinister character.
Many bathers had there prayed for a dry death from time to
timeandlike Gonzalo alsohad been unanswered; and Troy
began to deem it possible that he might be added to their
number. Not a boat of any kind was at present within sight
but far in the distance Budmouth lay upon the seaas it
were quietly regarding his effortsand beside the town the
harbour showed its position by a dim meshwork of ropes and
spars. After well-nigh exhausting himself in attempts to
get back to the mouth of the covein his weakness swimming
several inches deeper than was his wontkeeping up his
breathing entirely by his nostrilsturning upon his back a
dozen times overswimming EN PAPILLON and so onTroy
resolved as a last resource to tread water at a slight
inclineand so endeavour to reach the shore at any point
merely giving himself a gentle impetus inwards whilst
carried on in the general direction of the tide. This
necessarily a slow processhe found to be not altogether so
difficultand though there was no choice of a landing-place
-- the objects on shore passing by him in a sad and slow
procession -- he perceptibly approached the extremity of a
spit of land yet further to the rightnow well defined


against the sunny portion of the horizon. While the
swimmer's eye's were fixed upon the spit as his only means
of salvation on this side of the Unknowna moving object
broke the outline of the extremityand immediately a ship's
boat appeared manned with several sailor ladsher bows
towards the sea.

All Troy's vigour spasmodically revived to prolong the
struggle yet a little further. Swimming with his right arm
he held up his left to hail themsplashing upon the waves
and shouting with all his might. From the position of the
setting sun his white form was distinctly visible upon the
now deep-hued bosom of the sea to the east of the boatand
the men saw him at once. Backing their oars and putting the
boat aboutthey pulled towards him with a willand in five
or six minutes from the time of his first hallootwo of the
sailors hauled him in over the stern.

They formed part of a brig's crewand had come ashore for
sand. Lending him what little clothing they could spare
among them as a slight protection against the rapidly
cooling airthey agreed to land him in the morning; and
without further delayfor it was growing latethey made
again towards the roadstead where their vessel lay.

And now night drooped slowly upon the wide watery levels in
front; and at no great distance from themwhere the
shoreline curved roundand formed a long riband of shade
upon the horizona series of points of yellow light began
to start into existencedenoting the spot to be the site of
Budmouthwhere the lamps were being lighted along the
parade. The cluck of their oars was the only sound of any
distinctness upon the seaand as they laboured amid the
thickening shades the lamplights grew largereach appearing
to send a flaming sword deep down into the waves before it
until there aroseamong other dim shapes of the kindthe
form of the vessel for which they were bound.

CHAPTER XLVIII

DOUBTS ARISE -- DOUBTS LINGER

BATHSHEBA underwent the enlargement of her husband's absence
from hours to days with a slight feeling of surpriseand a
slight feeling of relief; yet neither sensation rose at any
time far above the level commonly designated as
indifference. She belonged to him: the certainties of that
position were so well definedand the reasonable
probabilities of its issue so bounded that she could not
speculate on contingencies. Taking no further interest in
herself as a splendid womanshe acquired the indifferent
feelings of an outsider in contemplating her probable fate
as a singular wretch; for Bathsheba drew herself and her
future in colours that no reality could exceed for darkness.
Her original vigorous pride of youth had sickenedand with
it had declined all her anxieties about coming yearssince
anxiety recognizes a better and a worse alternativeand
Bathsheba had made up her mind that alternatives on any
noteworthy scale had ceased for her. Soonor later -- and
that not very late -- her husband would be home again. And
then the days of their tenancy of the Upper Farm would be


numbered. There had originally been shown by the agent to
the estate some distrust of Bathsheba's tenure as James
Everdene's successoron the score of her sexand her
youthand her beauty; but the peculiar nature of her
uncle's willhis own frequent testimony before his death to
her cleverness in such a pursuitand her vigorous
marshalling of the numerous flocks and herds which came
suddenly into her hands before negotiations were concluded
had won confidence in her powersand no further objections
had been raised. She had latterly been in great doubt as to
what the legal effects of her marriage would be upon her
position; but no notice had been taken as yet of her change
of nameand only one point was clear -- that in the event
of her own or her husband's inability to meet the agent at
the forthcoming January rent-dayvery little consideration
would be shownandfor that mattervery little would be
deserved. Once out of the farmthe approach of poverty
would be sure.

Hence Bathsheba lived in a perception that her purposes were
broken off. She was not a woman who could hope on without
good materials for the processdiffering thus from the less
far-sighted and energeticthough more petted ones of the
sexwith whom hope goes on as a sort of clockwork which the
merest food and shelter are sufficient to wind up; and
perceiving clearly that her mistake had been a fatal one
she accepted her positionand waited coldly for the end.

The first Saturday after Troy's departure she went to
Casterbridge alonea journey she had not before taken since
her marriage. On this Saturday Bathsheba was passing slowly
on foot through the crowd of rural business-men gathered as
usual in front of the market-housewho were as usual gazed
upon by the burghers with feelings that those healthy lives
were dearly paid for by exclusion from possible
aldermanshipwhen a manwho had apparently been following
hersaid some words to another on her left hand.
Bathsheba's ears were keen as those of any wild animaland
she distinctly heard what the speaker saidthough her back
was towards him.

I am looking for Mrs. Troy. Is that she there?

Yes; that's the young lady, I believe,said the the person
addressed.

I have some awkward news to break to her. Her husband is
drowned.

As if endowed with the spirit of prophecyBathsheba gasped
outNo, it is not true; it cannot be true!Then she said
and heard no more. The ice of self-command which had
latterly gathered over her was brokenand the currents
burst forth againand over whelmed her. A darkness came
into her eyesand she fell.

But not to the ground. A gloomy manwho had been observing
her from under the portico of the old corn-exchange when she
passed through the group withoutstepped quickly to her
side at the moment of her exclamationand caught her in his
arms as she sank down.

What is it?said Boldwoodlooking up at the bringer of
the big newsas he supported her.


Her husband was drowned this week while bathing in Lulwind
Cove. A coastguardsman found his clothes, and brought them
into Budmouth yesterday.

Thereupon a strange fire lighted up Boldwood's eyeand his
face flushed with the suppressed excitement of an
unutterable thought. Everybody's glance was now centred
upon him and the unconscious Bathsheba. He lifted her
bodily off the groundand smoothed down the folds of her
dress as a child might have taken a storm-beaten bird and
arranged its ruffled plumesand bore her along the pavement
to the King's Arms Inn. Here he passed with her under the
archway into a private room; and by the time he had
deposited -- so lothly -- the precious burden upon a sofa
Bathsheba had opened her eyes. Remembering all that had
occurredshe murmuredI want to go home!

Boldwood left the room. He stood for a moment in the
passage to recover his senses. The experience had been too
much for his consciousness to keep up withand now that he
had grasped it it had gone again. For those few heavenly
golden moments she had been in his arms. What did it matter
about her not knowing it? She had been close to his breast;
he had been close to hers.

He started onward againand sending a woman to herwent
out to ascertain all the facts of the case. These appeared
to be limited to what he had already heard. He then ordered
her horse to be put into the gigand when all was ready
returned to inform her. He found thatthough still pale
and unwellshe had in the meantime sent for the Budmouth
man who brought the tidingsand learnt from him all there
was to know.

Being hardly in a condition to drive home as she had driven
to townBoldwoodwith every delicacy of manner and
feelingoffered to get her a driveror to give her a seat
in his phaetonwhich was more comfortable than her own
conveyance. These proposals Bathsheba gently declinedand
the farmer at once departed.

About half-an-hour later she invigorated herself by an
effortand took her seat and the reins as usual -- in
external appearance much as if nothing had happened. She
went out of the town by a tortuous back streetand drove
slowly alongunconscious of the road and the scene. The
first shades of evening were showing themselves when
Bathsheba reached homewheresilently alighting and
leaving the horse in the hands of the boyshe proceeded at
once upstairs. Liddy met her on the landing. The news had
preceded Bathsheba to Weatherbury by half-an-hourand Liddy
looked inquiringly into her mistress's face. Bathsheba had
nothing to say.

She entered her bedroom and sat by the windowand thought
and thought till night enveloped herand the extreme lines
only of her shape were visible. Somebody came to the door
knockedand opened it.

Well, what is it, Liddy?she said.

I was thinking there must be something got for you to
wear,said Liddywith hesitation.


What do you mean?

Mourning.

No, no, no,said Bathshebahurriedly.

But I suppose there must be something done for poor ----

Not at present, I think. It is not necessary.

Why not, ma'am?

Because he's still alive.

How do you know that?said Liddyamazed.

I don't know it. But wouldn't it have been different, or
shouldn't I have heard more, or wouldn't they have found
him, Liddy? -- or -- I don't know how it is, but death would
have been different from how this is. I am perfectly
convinced that he is still alive!

Bathsheba remained firm in this opinion till Mondaywhen
two circumstances conjoined to shake it. The first was a
short paragraph in the local newspaperwhichbeyond making
by a methodizing pen formidable presumptive evidence of
Troy's death by drowningcontained the important testimony
of a young Mr. BarkerM.D.of Budmouthwho spoke to being
an eyewitness of the accidentin a letter to the editor.
In this he stated that he was passing over the cliff on the
remoter side of the cove just as the sun was setting. At
that time he saw a bather carried along in the current
outside the mouth of the coveand guessed in an instant
that there was but a poor chance for him unless he should be
possessed of unusual muscular powers. He drifted behind a
projection of the coastand Mr. Barker followed along the
shore in the same direction. But by the time that he could
reach an elevation sufficiently great to command a view of
the sea beyonddusk had set inand nothing further was to
be seen.

The other circumstance was the arrival of his clotheswhen
it became necessary for her to examine and identify them -though
this had virtually been done long before by those who
inspected the letters in his pockets. It was so evident to
her in the midst of her agitation that Troy had undressed in
the full conviction of dressing again almost immediately
that the notion that anything but death could have prevented
him was a perverse one to entertain.

Then Bathsheba said to herself that others were assured in
their opinion; strange that she should not be. A strange
reflection occurred to hercausing her face to flush.
Suppose that Troy had followed Fanny into another world.
Had he done this intentionallyyet contrived to make his
death appear like an accident? Neverthelessthis thought
of how the apparent might differ from the real -- made vivid
by her bygone jealousy of Fannyand the remorse he had
shown that night -- did not blind her to the perception of a
likelier differenceless tragicbut to herself far more
disastrous.


When alone late that evening beside a small fireand much
calmed downBathsheba took Troy's watch into her hand
which had been restored to her with the rest of the articles
belonging to him. She opened the case as he had opened it
before her a week ago. There was the little coil of pale
hair which had been as the fuze to this great explosion.

He was hers and she was his; they should be gone together,
she said. "I am nothing to either of themand why should I
keep her hair?" She took it in her handand held it over
the fire." No -- I'll not burn it -- I'll keep it in memory
of herpoor thing!" she addedsnatching back her hand.

CHAPTER XLIX

OAK'S ADVANCEMENT -- A GREAT HOPE

THE later autumn and the winter drew on apaceand the
leaves lay thick upon the turf of the glades and the mosses
of the woods. Bathshebahaving previously been living in a
state of suspended feeling which was not suspensenow lived
in a mood of quietude which was not precisely peacefulness.
While she had known him to be alive she could have thought
of his death with equanimity; but now that it might be she
had lost himshe regretted that he was not hers still. She
kept the farm goingraked in her profits without caring
keenly about themand expended money on ventures because
she had done so in bygone dayswhichthough not long gone
byseemed infinitely removed from her present. She looked
back upon that past over a great gulfas if she were now a
dead personhaving the faculty of meditation still left in
herby means of whichlike the mouldering gentlefolk of
the poet's storyshe could sit and ponder what a gift life
used to be.

Howeverone excellent result of her general apathy was the
long-delayed installation of Oak as bailiff; but he having
virtually exercised that function for a long time already
the changebeyond the substantial increase of wages it
broughtwas little more than a nominal one addressed to the
outside world.

Boldwood lived secluded and inactive. Much of his wheat and
all his barley of that season had been spoilt by the rain.
It sproutedgrew into intricate matsand was ultimately
thrown to the pigs in armfuls. The strange neglect which
had produced this ruin and waste became the subject of
whispered talk among all the people round; and it was
elicited from one of Boldwood's men that forgetfulness had
nothing to do with itfor he had been reminded of the
danger to his corn as many times and as persistently as
inferiors dared to do. The sight of the pigs turning in
disgust from the rotten ears seemed to arouse Boldwoodand
he one evening sent for Oak. Whether it was suggested by
Bathsheba's recent act of promotion or notthe farmer
proposed at the interview that Gabriel should undertake the
superintendence of the Lower Farm as well as of Bathsheba's
because of the necessity Boldwood felt for such aidand the
impossibility of discovering a more trustworthy man.
Gabriel's malignant star was assuredly setting fast.


Bathshebawhen she learnt of this proposal -- for Oak was
obliged to consult her -- at first languidly objected. She
considered that the two farms together were too extensive
for the observation of one man. Boldwoodwho was
apparently determined by personal rather than commercial
reasonssuggested that Oak should be furnished with a horse
for his sole usewhen the plan would present no difficulty
the two farms lying side by side. Boldwood did not directly
communicate with her during these negotiationsonly
speaking to Oakwho was the go-between throughout. All was
harmoniously arranged at lastand we now see Oak mounted on
a strong coband daily trotting the length breadth of about
two thousand acres in a cheerful spirit of surveillanceas
if the crops all belonged to him -- the actual mistress of
the one-half and the master of the othersitting in their
respective homes in gloomy and sad seclusion.

Out of this there aroseduring the spring succeedinga
talk in the parish that Gabriel Oak was feathering his nest
fast.

Whatever d'ye think,said Susan TallGable Oak is coming
it quite the dand. He now wears shining boots with hardly a
hob in 'em, two or three times a-week, and a tall hat a-
Sundays, and 'a hardly knows the name of smockfrock. When I
see people strut enough to he cut up into bantam cocks, I
stand dormant with wonder, and says no more!

It was eventually known that Gabrielthough paid a fixed
wage by Bathsheba independent of the fluctuations of
agricultural profitshad made an engagement with Boldwood
by which Oak was to receive a share of the receipts -- a
small share certainlyyet it was money of a higher quality
than mere wagesand capable of expansion in a way that
wages were not. Some were beginning to consider Oak a
nearmanfor though his condition had thus far improved
he lived in no better style than beforeoccupying the same
cottageparing his own potatoesmending his stockingsand
sometimes even making his bed with his own hands. But as
Oak was not only provokingly indifferent to public opinion
but a man who clung persistently to old habits and usages
simply because they were oldthere was room for doubt as to
his motives.

A great hope had latterly germinated in Boldwoodwhose
unreasoning devotion to Bathsheba could only be
characterized as a fond madness which neither time nor
circumstanceevil nor good reportcould weaken or destroy.
This fevered hope had grown up again like a grain of
mustard-seed during the quiet which followed the hasty
conjecture that Troy was drowned. He nourished it
fearfullyand almost shunned the contemplation of it in
earnestlest facts should reveal the wildness of the dream.
Bathsheba having at last been persuaded to wear mourning
her appearance as she entered the church in that guise was
in itself a weekly addition to his faith that a time was
coming -- very far off perhapsyet surely nearing -- when
his waiting on events should have its reward. How long he
might have to wait he had not yet closely considered. What
he would try to recognize was that the severe schooling she
had been subjected to had made Bathsheba much more
considerate than she had formerly been of the feelings of
othersand he trusted thatshould she be willing at any
time in the future to marry any man at allthat man would


be himself. There was a substratum of good feeling in her:
her self-reproach for the injury she had thoughtlessly done
him might be depended upon now to a much greater extent than
before her infatuation and disappointment. It would be
possible to approach her by the channel of her good nature
and to suggest a friendly businesslike compact between them
for fulfilment at some future daykeeping the passionate
side of his desire entirely out of her sight. Such was
Boldwood's hope.

To the eyes of the middle-agedBathsheba was perhaps
additionally charming just now. Her exuberance of spirit
was pruned down; the original phantom of delight had shown
herself to be not too bright for human nature's daily food
and she had been able to enter this second poetical phase
without losing much of the first in the process.

Bathsheba's return from a two months' visit to her old aunt
at Norcombe afforded the impassioned and yearning farmer a
pretext for inquiring directly after her -- now possibly in
the ninth month of her widowhood -- and endeavouring to get
a notion of her state of mind regarding him. This occurred
in the middle of the haymakingand Boldwood contrived to be
near Liddy who was assisting in the fields.

I am glad to see you out of doors, Lydia,he said
pleasantly

She simperedand wondered in her heart why he should speak
so frankly to her.

I hope Mrs. Troy is quite well after her long absence,he
continuedin a manner expressing that the coldest-hearted
neighbour could scarcely say less about her.

She is quite well, sir.

And cheerfulI suppose."

Yes, cheerful.

Fearful, did you say?

Oh no. I merely said she was cheerful.

Tells you all her affairs?

No, sir.

Some of them?

Yes, sir.

Mrs. Troy puts much confidence in you, Lydia, and very
wisely, perhaps.

She do, sir. I've been with her all through her troubles,
and was with her at the time of Mr. Troy's going and all.
And if she were to marry again I expect I should bide with
her.

She promises that you shall -- quite natural,said the
strategic loverthrobbing throughout him at the presumption
which Liddy's words appeared to warrant -- that his darling


had thought of re-marriage.

No -- she doesn't promise it exactly. I merely judge on my
own account.

YesyesI understand. When she alludes to the
possibility of marrying againyou conclude ----"

She never do allude to it, sir,said Liddythinking how
very stupid Mr. Boldwood was getting.

Of course not,he returned hastilyhis hope falling
again. "You needn't take quite such long reaches with your
rakeLydia -- short and quick ones are best. Well
perhapsas she is absolute mistress again nowit is wise
of her to resolve never to give up her freedom."

My mistress did certainly once say, though not seriously,
that she supposed she might marry again at the end of seven
years from last year, if she cared to risk Mr. Troy's coming
back and claiming her.

Ah, six years from the present time. Said that she might.
She might marry at once in every reasonable person's
opinion, whatever the lawyers may say to the contrary.

Have you been to ask them?said Liddyinnocently.

Not I,said Boldwoodgrowing red. "Liddyyou needn't
stay here a minute later than you wishso Mr. Oak says. I
am now going on a little farther. Good-afternoon."

He went away vexed with himselfand ashamed of having for
this one time in his life done anything which could be
called underhand. Poor Boldwood had no more skill in
finesse than a battering-ramand he was uneasy with a sense
of having made himself to appear stupid andwhat was worse
mean. But he hadafter alllighted upon one fact by way
of repayment. It was a singularly fresh and fascinating
factand though not without its sadness it was pertinent
and real. In little more than six years from this time
Bathsheba might certainly marry him. There was something
definite in that hopefor admitting that there might have
been no deep thought in her words to Liddy about marriage
they showed at least her creed on the matter.

This pleasant notion was now continually in his mind. Six
years were a long timebut how much shorter than neverthe
idea he had for so long been obliged to endure! Jacob had
served twice seven years for Rachel: what were six for such
a woman as this? He tried to like the notion of waiting for
her better than that of winning her at once. Boldwood felt
his love to be so deep and strong and eternalthat it was
possible she had never yet known its full volumeand this
patience in delay would afford him an opportunity of giving
sweet proof on the point. He would annihilate the six years
of his life as if they were minutes -- so little did he
value his time on earth beside her love. He would let her
seeall those six years of intangible ethereal courtship
how little care he had for anything but as it bore upon the
consummation.

Meanwhile the early and the late summer brought round the
week in which Greenhill Fair was held. This fair was


frequently attended by the folk of Weatherbury.

CHAPTER L

THE SHEEP FAIR -- TROY TOUCHES HIS WIFE'S HAND

GREENHILL was the Nijni Novgorod of South Wessex; and the
busiestmerriestnoisiest day of the whole statute number
was the day of the sheep fair. This yearly gathering was
upon the summit of a hill which retained in good
preservation the remains of an ancient earthworkconsisting
of a huge rampart and entrenchment of an oval form
encircling the top of the hillthough somewhat broken down
here and there. To each of the two chief openings on
opposite sides a winding road ascendedand the level green
space of ten or fifteen acres enclosed by the bank was the
site of the fair. A few permanent erections dotted the
spotbut the majority of visitors patronized canvas alone
for resting and feeding under during the time of their
sojourn here.

Shepherds who attended with their flocks from long distances
started from home two or three daysor even a weekbefore
the fairdriving their charges a few miles each day -- not
more than ten or twelve -- and resting them at night in
hired fields by the wayside at previously chosen points
where they fedhaving fasted since morning. The shepherd
of each flock marched behinda bundle containing his kit
for the week strapped upon his shouldersand in his hand
his crookwhich he used as the staff of his pilgrimage.
Several of the sheep would get worn and lameand
occasionally a lambing occurred on the road. To meet these
contingenciesthere was frequently providedto accompany
the flocks from the remoter pointsa pony and waggon into
which the weakly ones were taken for the remainder of the
journey.

The Weatherbury Farmshoweverwere no such long distance
from the hilland those arrangements were not necessary in
their case. But the large united flocks of Bathsheba and
Farmer Boldwood formed a valuable and imposing multitude
which demanded much attentionand on this account Gabriel
in addition to Boldwood's shepherd and Cain Ball
accompanied them along the waythrough the decayed old town
of Kingsbereand upward to the plateau-- old George the
dog of course behind them.

When the autumn sun slanted over Greenhill this morning and
lighted the dewy flat upon its crestnebulous clouds of
dust were to be seen floating between the pairs of hedges
which streaked the wide prospect around in all directions.
These gradually converged upon the base of the hilland the
flocks became individually visibleclimbing the serpentine
ways which led to the top. Thusin a slow processionthey
entered the opening to which the roads tendedmultitude
after multitudehorned and hornless -- blue flocks and red
flocksbuff flocks and brown flockseven green and salmontinted
flocksaccording to the fancy of the colourist and
custom of the farm. Men were shoutingdogs were barking
with greatest animationbut the thronging travellers in so
long a journey had grown nearly indifferent to such terrors


though they still bleated piteously at the unwontedness of
their experiencesa tall shepherd rising here and there in
the midst of themlike a gigantic idol amid a crowd of
prostrate devotees.

The great mass of sheep in the fair consisted of South Downs
and the old Wessex horned breedsto the latter class
Bathsheba's and Farmer Boldwood's mainly belonged. These
filed in about nine o'clocktheir vermiculated horns
lopping gracefully on each side of their cheeks in
geometrically perfect spiralsa small pink and white ear
nestling under each horn. Before and behind came other
varietiesperfect leopards as to the full rich substance of
their coatsand only lacking the spots. There were also a
few of the Oxfordshire breedwhose wool was beginning to
curl like a child's flaxen hairthough surpassed in this
respect by the effeminate Leicesterswhich were in turn
less curly than the Cotswolds. But the most picturesque by
far was a small flock of Exmoorswhich chanced to be there
this year. Their pied faces and legsdark and heavy horns
tresses of wool hanging round their swarthy foreheadsquite
relieved the monotony of the flocks in that quarter.

All these bleatingpantingand weary thousands had entered
and were penned before the morning had far advancedthe dog
belonging to each flock being tied to the corner of the pen
containing it. Alleys for pedestrians intersected the pens
which soon became crowded with buyers and sellers from far
and near.

In another part of the hill an altogether different scene
began to force itself upon the eye towards midday. A
circular tentof exceptional newness and sizewas in
course of erection here. As the day drew onthe flocks
began to change handslightening the shepherd's
responsibilities; and they turned their attention to this
tent and inquired of a man at work therewhose soul seemed
concentrated on tying a bothering knot in no timewhat was
going on.

The Royal Hippodrome Performance of Turpin's Ride to York
and the Death of Black Bess,replied the man promptly
without turning his eyes or leaving off trying.

As soon as the tent was completed the band struck up highly
stimulating harmoniesand the announcement was publicly
madeBlack Bess standing in a conspicuous position on the
outsideas a living proofif proof were wantedof the
truth of the oracular utterances from the stage over which
the people were to enter. These were so convinced by such
genuine appeals to heart and understanding both that they
soon began to crowd in abundantlyamong the foremost being
visible Jan Coggan and Joseph Poorgrasswho were holiday
keeping here to-day.

That's the great ruffen pushing me!screamed a woman in
front of Jan over her shoulder at him when the rush was at
its fiercest.

How can I help pushing ye when the folk behind push me?
said Cogganin a deprecating toneturning without turning
his bodywhich was jammed as in a vice.

There was a silence; then the drums and trumpets again sent


forth their echoing notes. The crowd was again ecstasied
and gave another lurch in which Coggan and Poorgrass were
again thrust by those behind upon the women in front.

Oh that helpless feymels should be at the mercy of such
ruffens!exclaimed one of these ladies againas she swayed
like a reed shaken by the wind.

Now said Coggan, appealing in an earnest voice to the
public at large as it stood clustered about his shoulderblades.
Did ye ever hear such onreasonable woman as that?
Upon my carcaseneighboursif I could only get out of this
cheesewringthe damn women might eat the show for me!"

Don't ye lose yer temper, Jan!implored Joseph Poorgrass
in a whisper. "They might get their men to murder usfor I
think by the shine of their eyes that they be a sinful form
of womankind."

Jan held his tongueas if he had no objection to be
pacified to please a friendand they gradually reached the
foot of the ladderPoorgrass being flattened like a
jumping-jackand the sixpencefor admissionwhich he had
got ready half-an-hour earlierhaving become so reeking hot
in the tight squeeze of his excited hand that the woman in
spanglesbrazen rings set with glass diamondsand with
chalked face and shoulderswho took the money of him
hastily dropped it again from a fear that some trick had
been played to burn her fingers. So they all enteredand
the cloth of the tentto the eyes of an observer on the
outsidebecame bulged into innumerable pimples such as we
observe on a sack of potatoescaused by the various human
headsbacksand elbows at high pressure within.

At the rear of the large tent there were two small dressingtents.
One of thesealloted to the male performerswas
partitioned into halves by a cloth; and in one of the
divisions there was sitting on the grasspulling on a pair
of jack-bootsa young man whom we instantly recognise as
Sergeant Troy.

Troy's appearance in this position may be briefly accounted
for. The brig aboard which he was taken in Budmouth Roads
was about to start on a voyagethough somewhat short of
hands. Troy read the articles and joinedbut before they
sailed a boat was despatched across the bay to Lulwind cove;
as he had half expectedhis clothes were gone. He
ultimately worked his passage to the United Stateswhere he
made a precarious living in various towns as Professor of
GymnasticsSword ExerciseFencingand Pugilism. A few
months were sufficient to give him a distaste for this kind
of life. There was a certain animal form of refinement in
his nature; and however pleasant a strange condition might
be whilst privations were easily warded offit was
disadvantageously coarse when money was short. There was
ever presenttoothe idea that he could claim a home and
its comforts did he but chose to return to England and
Weatherbury Farm. Whether Bathsheba thought him dead was a
frequent subject of curious conjecture. To England he did
return at last; but the fact of drawing nearer to
Weatherbury abstracted its fascinationsand his intention
to enter his old groove at the place became modified. It
was with gloom he considered on landing at Liverpool that if
he were to go home his reception would be of a kind very


unpleasant to contemplate; for what Troy had in the way of
emotion was an occasional fitful sentiment which sometimes
caused him as much inconvenience as emotion of a strong and
healthy kind. Bathsheba was not a women to be made a fool
ofor a woman to suffer in silence; and how could he endure
existence with a spirited wife to whom at first entering he
would be beholden for food and lodging? Moreoverit was
not at all unlikely that his wife would fail at her farming
if she had not already done so; and he would then become
liable for her maintenance: and what a life such a future
of poverty with her would bethe spectre of Fanny
constantly between themharrowing his temper and
embittering her words! Thusfor reasons touching on
distasteregretand shame commingledhe put off his
return from day to dayand would have decided to put it off
altogether if he could have found anywhere else the readymade
establishment which existed for him there.

At this time -- the July preceding the September in which we
find at Greenhill Fair -- he fell in with a travelling
circus which was performing in the outskirts of a northern
town. Troy introduced himself to the manager by taming a
restive horse of the troupehitting a suspended apple with
a pistol -- bullet fired from the animal's back when in full
gallopand other feats. For his merits in these -- all
more or less based upon his experiences as a dragoonguardsman
-- Troy was taken into the companyand the play
of Turpin was prepared with a view to his personation of the
chief character. Troy was not greatly elated by the
appreciative spirit in which he was undoubtedly treatedbut
he thought the engagement might afford him a few weeks for
consideration. It was thus carelesslyand without having
formed any definite plan for the futurethat Troy
found himself at Greenhill Fair with the rest of the company
on this day.

And now the mild autumn sun got lowerand in front of the
pavilion the following incident had taken place. Bathsheba
-- who was driven to the fair that day by her odd man
Poorgrass -- hadlike every one elseread or heard the
announcement that Mr. Francisthe Great Cosmopolitan
Equestrian and Roughriderwould enact the part of Turpin
and she was not yet too old and careworn to be without a
little curiosity to see him. This particular show was by
far the largest and grandest in the faira horde of little
shows grouping themselves under its shade like chickens
around a hen. The crowd had passed inand Boldwoodwho
had been watching all the day for an opportunity of speaking
to herseeing her comparatively isolatedcame up to her
side.

I hope the sheep have done well to-day, Mrs. Troy?he
saidnervously.

Oh yes, thank you,said Bathshebacolour springing up in
the centre of her cheeks. "I was fortunate enough to sell
them all just as we got upon the hillso we hadn't to pen
at all."

And now you are entirely at leisure?

Yes, except that I have to see one more dealer in two
hours' time: otherwise I should be going home. He was
looking at this large tent and the announcement. Have you


ever seen the play of Turpin's Ride to York?" Turpin was a
real manwas he not?"

Oh yes, perfectly true -- all of it. Indeed, I think I've
heard Jan Coggan say that a relation of his knew Tom King,
Turpin's friend, quite well.

Coggan is rather given to strange stories connected with
his relations, we must remember. I hope they can all be
believed.

Yes, yes; we know Coggan. But Turpin is true enough. You
have never seen it played, I suppose?

Never. I was not allowed to go into these places when I
was young. Hark! What's that prancing? How they shout!

Black Bess just started off, I suppose. Am I right in
supposing you would like to see the performance, Mrs. Troy?
Please excuse my mistake, if it is one; but if you would
like to, I'll get a seat for you with pleasure.Perceiving
that she hesitatedhe addedI myself shall not stay to
see it: I've seen it before.

Now Bathsheba did care a little to see the showand had
only withheld her feet from the ladder because she feared to
go in alone. She had been hoping that Oak might appear
whose assistance in such cases was always accepted as an
inalienable rightbut Oak was nowhere to be seen; and hence
it was that she saidThen if you will just look in first,
to see if there's room, I think I will go in for a minute or
two.

And so a short time after this Bathsheba appeared in the
tent with Boldwood at her elbowwhotaking her to a
reservedseatagain withdrew.

This feature consisted of one raised bench in very
conspicuous part of the circlecovered with red clothand
floored with a piece of carpetand Bathsheba immediately
foundto her confusionthat she was the single reserved
individual in the tentthe rest of the crowded spectators
one and allstanding on their legs on the borders of the
arenawhere they got twice as good a view of the
performance for half the money. Hence as many eyes were
turned upon herenthroned alone in this place of honour
against a scarlet back-groundas upon the ponies and clown
who were engaged in preliminary exploits in the centre
Turpin not having yet appeared. Once thereBathsheba was
forced to make the best of it and remain: she sat down
spreading her skirts with some dignity over the unoccupied
space on each side of herand giving a new and feminine
aspect to the pavilion. In a few minutes she noticed the
fat red nape of Coggan's neck among those standing just
below herand Joseph Poorgrass's saintly profile a little
further on.

The interior was shadowy with a peculiar shade. The strange
luminous semi-opacities of fine autumn afternoons and eves
intensified into Rembrandt effects the few yellow sunbeams
which came through holes and divisions in the canvasand
spirted like jets of gold-dust across the dusky blue
atmosphere of haze pervading the tentuntil they alighted
on inner surfaces of cloth oppositeand shone like little


lamps suspended there.

Troyon peeping from his dressing-tent through a slit for a
reconnoitre before enteringsaw his unconscious wife on
high before him as describedsitting as queen of the
tournament. He started back in utter confusionfor
although his disguise effectually concealed his personality
he instantly felt that she would be sure to recognize his
voice. He had several times during the day thought of the
possibility of some Weatherbury person or other appearing
and recognizing him; but he had taken the risk carelessly.
If they see melet themhe had said. But here was
Bathsheba in her own person; and the reality of the scene
was so much intenser than any of his prefigurings that he
felt he had not half enough considered the point.

She looked so charming and fair that his cool mood about
Weatherbury people was changed. He had not expected her to
exercise this power over him in the twinkling of an eye.
Should he go onand care nothing? He could not bring
himself to do that. Beyond a politic wish to remain
unknownthere suddenly arose in him now a sense of shame at
the possibility that his attractive young wifewho already
despised himshould despise him more by discovering him in
so mean a condition after so long a time. He actually
blushed at the thoughtand was vexed beyond measure that
his sentiments of dislike towards Weatherbury should have
led him to dally about the country in this way.

But Troy was never more clever than when absolutely at his
wit's end. He hastily thrust aside the curtain dividing his
own little dressing space from that of the manager and
proprietorwho now appeared as the individual called Tom
King as far down as his waistand as the aforesaid
respectable manager thence to his toes.

Here's the devil to pay!said Troy.

How's that?

Why, there's a blackguard creditor in the tent I don't want
to see, who'll discover me and nab me as sure as Satan if I
open my mouth. What's to be done?

You must appear nowI think."

I can't.

But the play must proceed."

Do you give out that Turpin has got a bad cold, and can't
speak his part, but that he'll perform it just the same
without speaking.

The proprietor shook his head.

Anyhow, play or no play, I won't open my mouth, said Troy,
firmly.

Very wellthen let me see. I tell you how we'll manage
said the other, who perhaps felt it would be extremely
awkward to offend his leading man just at this time. I
won't tell 'em anything about your keeping silence; go on
with the piece and say nothingdoing what you can by a


judicious wink now and thenand a few indomitable nods in
the heroic placesyou know. They'll never find out that
the speeches are omitted."

This seemed feasible enoughfor Turpin's speeches were not
many or longthe fascination of the piece lying entirely in
the action; and accordingly the play beganand at the
appointed time Black Bess leapt into the grassy circle amid
the plaudits of the spectators. At the turnpike scene
where Bess and Turpin are hotly pursued at midnight by the
officersand half-awake gatekeeper in his tasselled
nightcap denies that any horseman has passedCoggan uttered
a broad-chested "Well done!" which could be heard all over
the fair above the bleatingand Poorgrass smiled
delightedly with a nice sense of dramatic contrast between
our herowho coolly leaps the gateand halting justice in
the form of his enemieswho must needs pull up cumbersomely
and wait to be let through. At the death of Tom Kinghe
could not refrain from seizing Coggan by the handand
whisperingwith tears in his eyesOf course he's not
really shot, Jan -- only seemingly!And when the last sad
scene came onand the body of the gallant and faithful Bess
had to be carried out on a shutter by twelve volunteers from
among the spectatorsnothing could restrain Poorgrass from
lending a handexclaimingas he asked Jan to join him
Twill be something to tell of at Warren's in future years,
Jan, and hand down to our children.For many a year in
WeatherburyJoseph toldwith the air of a man who had had
experiences in his timethat he touched with his own hand
the hoof of Bess as she lay upon the board upon his
shoulder. Ifas some thinkers holdimmortality consists
in being enshrined in others' memoriesthen did Black Bess
become immortal that day if she never had done so before.

Meanwhile Troy had added a few touches to his ordinary makeup
for the characterthe more effectually to disguise
himselfand though he had felt faint qualms on first
enteringthe metamorphosis effected by judiciously "lining"
his face with a wire rendered him safe from the eyes of
Bathsheba and her men. Neverthelesshe was relieved when
it was got through.

There a second performance in the eveningand the tent was
lighted up. Troy had taken his part very quietly this time
venturing to introduce a few speeches on occasion; and was
just concluding it whenwhilst standing at the edge of the
circle contiguous to the first row of spectatorshe
observed within a yard of him the eye of a man darted keenly
into his side features. Troy hastily shifted his position
after having recognized in the scrutineer the knavish baliff
Pennywayshis wife's sworn enemywho still hung about the
outskirts of Weatherbury.

At first Troy resolved to take no notice and abide by
circumstances. That he had been recognized by this man was
highly probable; yet there was room for a doubt. Then the
great objection he had felt to allowing news of his
proximity to precede him to Weatherbury in the event of his
returnbased on a feeling that knowledge of his present
occupation would discredit him still further in his wife's
eyesreturned in full force. Moreovershould he resolve
not to return at alla tale of his being alive and being in
the neighbourhood would be awkward; and he was anxious to
acquire a knowledge of his wife's temporal affairs before


deciding which to do.

In this dilemma Troy at once went out to reconnoitre. It
occurred to him that to find Pennywaysand make a friend of
him if possiblewould be a very wise act. He had put on a
thick beard borrowed from the establishmentand in this he
wandered about the fair-field. It was now almost darkand
respectable people were getting their carts and gigs ready
to go home.

The largest refreshment booth in the fair was provided by an
innkeeper from a neighbouring town. This was considered an
unexceptionable place for obtaining the necessary food and
rest: Host Trencher (as he was jauntily called by the local
newspaper) being a substantial man of high repute for
catering through all the country round. The tent was
divided into first and second-class compartmentsand at the
end of the first-class division was a yet further enclosure
for the most exclusivefenced off from the body of the tent
by a luncheon-barbehind which the host himself stood
bustling about in white apron and shirt-sleevesand looking
as if he had never lived anywhere but under canvas all his
life. In these penetralia were chairs and a tablewhich
on candles being lightedmade quite a cozy and luxurious
showwith an urnplated tea and coffee potschina
teacupsand plum cakes.

Troy stood at the entrance to the boothwhere a gipsy-woman
was frying pancakes over a little fire of sticks and selling
them at a penny a-pieceand looked over the heads of the
people within. He could see nothing of Pennywaysbut he
soon discerned Bathsheba through an opening into the
reserved space at the further end. Troy thereupon
retreatedwent round the tent into the darknessand
listened. He could hear Bathsheba's voice immediately
inside the canvas; she was conversing with a man. A warmth
overspread his face: surely she was not so unprincipled as
to flirt in a fair! He wondered ifthenshe reckoned upon
his death as an absolute certainty. To get at the root of
the matterTroy took a penknife from his pocket and softly
made two little cuts crosswise in the clothwhichby
folding back the corners left a hole the size of a wafer.
Close to this he placed his facewithdrawing it again in a
movement of surprise; for his eye had been within twelve
inches of the top of Bathsheba's head. It was too near to
be convenient. He made another hole a little to one side
and lower downin a shaded place beside her chairfrom
which it was easy and safe to survey her by looking
horizontally.

Troy took in the scene completely now. She was leaning
backsipping a cup of tea that she held in her handand
the owner of the male voice was Boldwoodwho had apparently
just brought the cup to herBathshebabeing in a negligent
moodleant so idly against the canvas that it was pressed
to the shape of her shoulderand she wasin factas good
as in Troy's arms; and he was obliged to keep his breast
carefully backward that she might not feel its warmth
through the cloth as he gazed in.

Troy found unexpected chords of feeling to be stirred again
within him as they had been stirred earlier in the day. She
was handsome as everand she was his. It was some minutes
before he could counteract his sudden wish to go inand


claim her. Then he thought how the proud girl who had
always looked down upon him even whilst it was to love him
would hate him on discovering him to be a strolling player.
Were he to make himself knownthat chapter of his life must
at all risks be kept for ever from her and from the
Weatherbury peopleor his name would be a byword throughout
the parish. He would be nicknamed "Turpin" as long as he
lived. Assuredly before he could claim her these few past
months of his existence must be entirely blotted out.

Shall I get you another cup before you start, ma'am?said
Farmer Boldwood.

Thank you,said Bathsheba. "But I must be going at once.
It was great neglect in that man to keep me waiting here
till so late. I should have gone two hours agoif it had
not been for him. I had no idea of coming in here; but
there's nothing so refreshing as a cup of teathough I
should never have got one if you hadn't helped me."

Troy scrutinized her cheek as lit by the candlesand
watched each varying shade thereonand the white shell-like
sinuosities of her little ear. She took out her purse and
was insisting to Boldwood on paying for her tea for herself
when at this moment Pennyways entered the tent. Troy
trembled: here was his scheme for respectability endangered
at once. He was about to leave his hole of espialattempt
to follow Pennywaysand find out if the ex-bailiff had
recognized himwhen he was arrested by the conversation
and found he was too late.

Excuse me, ma'am,said Pennyways; "I've some private
information for your ear alone."

I cannot hear it now,she saidcoldly. That Bathsheba
could not endure this man was evident; in facthe was
continually coming to her with some tale or otherby which
he might creep into favour at the expense of persons
maligned.

I'll write it down,said Pennywaysconfidently. He
stooped over the tablepulled a leaf from a warped pocket-
bookand wrote upon the paperin a round hand -


YOUR HUSBAND IS HERE. I'VE SEEN HIM. WHO'S THE FOOL NOW?

This he folded smalland handed towards her. Bathsheba
would not read it; she would not even put out her hand to
take it. Pennywaysthenwith a laugh of derisiontossed
it into her lapandturning awayleft her.

From the words and action of PennywaysTroythough he had
not been able to see what the ex-bailiff wrotehad not a
moment's doubt that the note referred to him. Nothing that
he could think of could be done to check the exposure.
Curse my luck!he whisperedand added imprecations which
rustled in the gloom like a pestilent wind. Meanwhile
Boldwood saidtaking up the note from her lap -


Don't you wish to read it, Mrs. Troy? If not, I'll destroy
it.

Oh, well,said Bathshebacarelesslyperhaps it is
unjust not to read it; but I can guess what it is about. He


wants me to recommend him, or it is to tell me of some
little scandal or another connected with my work-people.
He's always doing that.

Bathsheba held the note in her right hand. Boldwood handed
towards her a plate of cut bread-and-butter; whenin order
to take a sliceshe put the note into her left handwhere
she was still holding the purseand then allowed her hand
to drop beside her close to the canvas. The moment had come
for saving his gameand Troy impulsively felt that he would
play the card. For yet another time he looked at the fair
handand saw the pink finger-tipsand the blue veins of
the wristencircled by a bracelet of coral chippings which
she wore: how familiar it all was to him! Thenwith the
lightning action in which he was such an adepthe
noiselessly slipped his hand under the bottom of the tentcloth
which was far from being pinned tightly downlifted
it a little waykeeping his eye to the holesnatched the
note from her fingersdropped the canvasand ran away in
the gloom towards the bank and ditchsmiling at the scream
of astonishment which burst from her. Troy then slid down
on the outside of the ramparthastened round in the bottom
of the entrenchment to a distance of a hundred yards
ascended againand crossed boldly in a slow walk towards
the front entrance of the tent. His object was now to get
to Pennywaysand prevent a repetition of the announcement
until such time as he should choose.

Troy reached the tent doorand standing among the groups
there gatheredlooked anxiously for Pennywaysevidently
not wishing to make himself prominent by inquiring for him.
One or two men were speaking of a daring attempt that had
just been made to rob a young lady by lifting the canvas of
the tent beside her. It was supposed that the rogue had
imagined a slip of paper which she held in her hand to be a
bank notefor he had seized itand made off with it
leaving her purse behind. His chagrin and disappointment at
discovering its worthlessness would be a good jokeit was
said. Howeverthe occurrence seemed to have become known
to fewfor it had not interrupted a fiddlerwho had lately
begun playing by the door of the tentnor the four bowed
old men with grim countenances and walking-sticks in hand
who were dancing "Major Malley's Reel" to the tune. Behind
these stood Pennyways. Troy glided up to himbeckonedand
whispered a few words; and with a mutual glance of
concurrence the two men went into the night together.

CHAPTER LI

BATHSHEBA TALKS WITH HER OUTRIDER

THE arrangement for getting back again to Weatherbury had
been that Oak should take the place of Poorgrass in
Bathsheba's conveyance and drive her homeit being
discovered late in the afternoon that Joseph was suffering
from his old complainta multiplying eyeand was
thereforehardly trustworthy as coachman and protector to a
woman. But Oak had found himself so occupiedand was full
of so many cares relative to those portions of Boldwood's
flocks that were not disposed ofthat Bathshebawithout
telling Oak or anybodyresolved to drive home herselfas


she had many times done from Casterbridge Marketand trust
to her good angel for performing the journey unmolested.
But having fallen in with Farmer Boldwood accidentally (on
her part at least) at the refreshment-tentshe found it
impossible to refuse his offer to ride on horseback beside
her as escort. It had grown twilight before she was aware
but Boldwood assured her that there was no cause for
uneasinessas the moon would be up in half-an-hour.

Immediately after the incident in the tentshe had risen to
go -- now absolutely alarmed and really grateful for her old
lover's protection -- though regretting Gabriel's absence
whose company she would have much preferredas being more
proper as well as more pleasantsince he was her own
managing-man and servant. Thishowevercould not be
helped; she would noton any considerationtreat Boldwood
harshlyhaving once already illused himand the moon
having risenand the gig being readyshe drove across the
hilltop in the wending way's which led downwards -- to
oblivious obscurityas it seemedfor the moon and the hill
it flooded with light were in appearance on a levelthe
rest of the world lying as a vast shady concave between
them. Boldwood mounted his horseand followed in close
attendance behind. Thus they descended into the lowlands
and the sounds of those left on the hill came like voices
from the skyand the lights were as those of a camp in
heaven. They soon passed the merry stragglers in the
immediate vicinity of the hilltraversed Kingsbereand got
upon the high road.

The keen instincts of Bathsheba had perceived that the
farmer's staunch devotion to herself was still undiminished
and she sympathized deeply. The sight had quite
depressed her this evening; had reminded her of her folly;
she wished anewas she had wished many months agofor some
means of making reparation for her fault. Hence her pity
for the man who so persistently loved on to his own injury
and permanent gloom had betrayed Bathsheba into an
injudicious considerateness of mannerwhich appeared almost
like tendernessand gave new vigour to the exquisite dream
of a Jacob's seven years service in poor Boldwood's mind.

He soon found an excuse for advancing from his position in
the rearand rode close by her side. They had gone two or
three miles in the moonlightspeaking desultorily across
the wheel of her gig concerning the fairfarmingOak's
usefulness to them bothand other indifferent subjects
when Boldwood said suddenly and simply -


Mrs. Troy, you will marry again some day?

This point-blank query unmistakably confused herit was not
till a minute or more had elapsed that she saidI have not
seriously thought of any such subject.

I quite understand that. Yet your late husband has been
dead nearly one year, and ----

You forget that his death was never absolutely proved, and
may not have taken place; so that I may not be really a
widow,she saidcatching at the straw of escape that the
fact afforded.

Not absolutely proved, perhaps, but it was proved


circumstantially. A man saw him drowning, too. No
reasonable person has any doubt of his death; nor have you,
ma'am, I should imagine.

I have none nowor I should have acted differently she
said, gently. I certainlyat firsthad a strange
uaccountable feeling that he could not have perishedbut I
have been able to explain that in several ways since. But
though I am fully persuaded that I shall see him no moreI
am far from thinking of marriage with another. I should be
very contemptible to indulge in such a thought."

They were silent now awhileand having struck into an
unfrequented track across a commonthe creaks of Boldwood's
saddle and gig springs were all the sounds to be heard.
Boldwood ended the pause.

Do you remember when I carried you fainting in my arms into
the King's Arms, in Casterbridge? Every dog has his day:
that was mine.

I know -- I know it all,she saidhurriedly.

I, for one, shall never cease regretting that events so
fell out as to deny you to me.

I, too, am very sorry,she saidand then checked herself.
I mean, you know, I am sorry you thought I ----

I have always this dreary pleasure in thinking over those
past times with you -- that I was something to you before HE
was anything, and that you belonged ALMOST to me. But, of
course, that's nothing. You never liked me.

I did; and respected you, too.

Do you now?"

Yes.

Which?

How do you mean which?

Do you like me, or do you respect me?

I don't know -- at least, I cannot tell you. It is
difficult for a woman to define her feelings in language
which is chiefly made by men to express theirs. My
treatment of you was thoughtless, inexcusable, wicked! I
shall eternally regret it. If there had been anything I
could have done to make amends I would most gladly have done
it -- there was nothing on earth I so longed to do as to
repair the error. But that was not possible.

Don't blame yourself -- you were not so far in the wrong as
you suppose. Bathsheba, suppose you had real complete proof
that you are what, in fact, you are -- a widow -- would you
repair the old wrong to me by marrying me?

I cannot say. I shouldn't yet, at any rate.

But you might at some future time of your life?


Oh yes, I might at some time.

Well, then, do you know that without further proof of any
kind you may marry again in about six years from the present
-- subject to nobody's objection or blame?

Oh yes,she saidquickly. "I know all that. But don't
talk of it -- seven or six years -- where may we all be by
that time?"

They will soon glide by, and it will seem an astonishingly
short time to look back upon when they are past -- much less
than to look forward to now.

Yes, yes; I have found that in my own experience.

Now listen once more,Boldwood pleaded. "If I wait that
timewill you marry me? You own that you owe me amends -let
that be your way of making them."

But, Mr. Boldwood -- six years ----

Do you want to be the wife of any other man?

No indeed! I mean, that I don't like to talk about this
matter now. Perhaps it is not proper, and I ought not to
allow it. Let us drop it. My husband may be living, as I
said.

Of course, I'll drop the subject if you wish. But
propriety has nothing to do with reasons. I am a middleaged
man, willing to protect you for the remainder of our
lives. On your side, at least, there is no passion or
blamable haste -- on mine, perhaps, there is. But I can't
help seeing that if you choose from a feeling of pity, and,
as you say, a wish to make amends, to make a bargain with me
for a far-ahead time -- an agreement which will set all
things right and make me happy, late though it may be -there
is no fault to be found with you as a woman. Hadn't I
the first place beside you? Haven't you been almost mine
once already? Surely you can say to me as much as this, you
will have me back again should circumstances permit? Now,
pray speak! O Bathsheba, promise -- it is only a little
promise -- that if you marry again, you will marry me!

His tone was so excited that she almost feared him at this
momenteven whilst she sympathized. It was a simple
physical fear -- the weak of the strong; there was no
emotional aversion or inner repugnance. She saidwith some
distress in her voicefor she remembered vividly his
outburst on the Yalbury Roadand shrank from a repetition
of his anger: -


I will never marry another man whilst you wish me to be
your wife, whatever comes -- but to say more -- you have
taken me so by surprise ----

But let it stand in these simple words -- that in six
years' time you will be my wife? Unexpected accidents we'll
not mention, because those, of course, must be given way to.
Now, this time I know you will keep your word.

That's why I hesitate to give it.


But do give it! Remember the past, and be kind.

She breathed; and then said mournfully: "Oh what shall I
do? I don't love youand I much fear that I never shall
love you as much as a woman ought to love a husband. If
yousirknow thatand I can yet give you happiness by a
mere promise to marry at the end of six yearsif my husband
should not come backit is a great honour to me. And if
you value such an act of friendship from a woman who doesn't
esteem herself as she didand has little love leftwhy it
will ----"

Promise!

-- Consider, if I cannot promise soon.

But soon is perhaps never?

Oh no, it is not! I mean soon. Christmas, we'll say.

Christmas!He said nothing further till he added: "Well
I'll say no more to you about it till that time."

Bathsheba was in a very peculiar state of mindwhich showed
how entirely the soul is the slave of the bodythe ethereal
spirit dependent for its quality upon the tangible flesh and
blood. It is hardly too much to say that she felt coerced
by a force stronger than her own willnot only into the act
of promising upon this singularly remote and vague matter
but into the emotion of fancying that she ought to promise.
When the weeks intervening between the night of this
conversation and Christmas day began perceptibly to
diminishher anxiety and perplexity increased.

One day she was led by an accident into an oddly
confidential dialogue with Gabriel about her difficulty. It
afforded her a little relief -- of a dull and cheerless
kind. They were auditing accountsand something occurred
in the course of their labours which led Oak to say
speaking of BoldwoodHe'll never forget you, ma'am,
never.

Then out came her trouble before she was aware; and she told
him how she had again got into the toils; what Boldwood had
asked herand how he was expecting her assent. "The most
mournful reason of all for my agreeing to it she said
sadly, and the true reason why I think to do so for good or
for evilis this -- it is a thing I have not breathed to a
living soul as yet -- I believe that if I don't give my
wordhe'll go out of his mind."

Really, do ye?said Gabrielgravely.

I believe this,she continuedwith reckless frankness;
and Heaven knows I say it in a spirit the very reverse of
vain, for I am grieved and troubled to my soul about it -- I
believe I hold that man's future in my hand. His career
depends entirely upon my treatment of him. O Gabriel, I
tremble at my responsibility, for it is terrible!

Well, I think this much, ma'am, as I told you years ago,
said Oakthat his life is a total blank whenever he isn't
hoping for 'ee; but I can't suppose -- I hope that nothing


so dreadful hangs on to it as you fancy. His natural manner
has always been dark and strange, you know. But since the
case is so sad and oddlike, why don't ye give the
conditional promise? I think I would.

But is it right? Some rash acts of my past life have
taught me that a watched woman must have very much
circumspection to retain only a very little credit, and I do
want and long to be discreet in this! And six years -- why
we may all be in our graves by that time, even if Mr. Troy
does not come back again, which he may not impossibly do!
Such thoughts give a sort of absurdity to the scheme. Now,
isn't it preposterous, Gabriel? However he came to dream of
it, I cannot think. But is it wrong? You know -- you are
older than I.

Eight years older, ma'am.

Yes, eight years -- and is it wrong?

Perhaps it would be an uncommon agreement for a man and
woman to make: I don't see anything really wrong about it,
said Oakslowly. "In fact the very thing that makes it
doubtful if you ought to marry en under any conditionthat
isyour not caring about him -- for I may suppose ----"

Yes, you may suppose that love is wanting,she said
shortly. "Love is an utterly bygonesorryworn-out
miserable thing with me -- for him or any one else."

Well, your want of love seems to me the one thing that
takes away harm from such an agreement with him. If wild
heat had to do wi' it, making ye long to over-come the
awkwardness about your husband's vanishing, it mid be wrong;
but a cold-hearted agreement to oblige a man seems
different, somehow. The real sin, ma'am in my mind, lies in
thinking of ever wedding wi' a man you don't love honest and
true.

That I'm willing to pay the penalty of,said Bathsheba
firmly. "You knowGabrielthis is what I cannot get off
my conscience -- that I once seriously injured him in sheer
idleness. If I had never played a trick upon himhe would
never have wanted to marry me. Oh if I could only pay some
heavy damages in money to him for the harm I didand so get
the sin off my soul that way!... Wellthere's the debt
which can only be discharged in one wayand I believe I am
bound to do it if it honestly lies in my powerwithout any
consideration of my own future at all. When a rake gambles
away his expectationsthe fact that it is an inconvenient
debt doesn't make him the less liable. I've been a rake
and the single point I ask you isconsidering that my own
scruplesand the fact that in the eye of the law my husband
is only missingwill keep any man from marrying me until
seven years have passed -- am I free to entertain such an
ideaeven though 'tis a sort of penance -- for it will be
that? I HATE the act of marriage under such circumstances
and the class of women I should seem to belong to by doing
it!"

It seems to me that all depends upon whe'r you think, as
everybody else do, that your husband is dead.

Yes -- I've long ceased to doubt that. I well know what


would have brought him back long before this time if he had
lived.

Well, then, in a religious sense you will be as free to
THINK o' marrying again as any real widow of one year's
standing. But why don't ye ask Mr. Thirdly's advice on how
to treat Mr. Boldwood?

No. When I want a broad-minded opinion for general
enlightenment, distinct from special advice, I never go to a
man who deals in the subject professionally. So I like the
parson's opinion on law, the lawyer's on doctoring, the
doctor's on business, and my business-man's -- that is,
yours -- on morals.

And on love ----

My own.

I'm afraid there's a hitch in that argument,said Oak
with a grave smile.

She did not reply at onceand then sayingGood evening,
Mr. Oak.went away.

She had spoken franklyand neither asked nor expected any
reply from Gabriel more satisfactory than that she had
obtained. Yet in the centremost parts of her complicated
heart there existed at this minute a little pang of
disappointmentfor a reason she would not allow herself to
recognize. Oak had not once wished her free that he might
marry her himself -- had not once saidI could wait for
you as well as he.That was the insect sting. Not that
she would have listened to any such hypothesis. O no -- for
wasn't she saying all the time that such thoughts of the
future were improperand wasn't Gabriel far too poor a man
to speak sentiment to her? Yet he might have just hinted
about that old love of hisand askedin a playful off-hand
wayif he might speak of it. It would have seemed pretty
and sweetif no more; and then she would have shown how
kind and inoffensive a woman's "No" can sometimes be. But
to give such cool advice -- the very advice she had asked
for -- it ruffled our heroine all the afternoon.

CHAPTER LII

CONVERGING COURSES

CHRISTMAS-EVE cameand a party that Boldwood was to give in
the evening was the great subject of talk in Weatherbury.
It was not that the rarity of Christmas parties in the
parish made this one a wonderbut that Boldwood should be
the giver. The announcement had had an abnormal and
incongruous soundas if one should hear of croquet-playing
in a cathedral aisleor that some much-respected judge was
going upon the stage. That the party was intended to be a
truly jovial one there was no room for doubt. A large bough
of mistletoe had been brought from the woods that dayand


suspended in the hall of the bachelor's home. Holly and ivy
had followed in armfuls. From six that morning till past
noon the huge wood fire in the kitchen roared and sparkled
at its highestthe kettlethe saucepanand the threelegged
pot appearing in the midst of the flames like
ShadrachMeshachand Abednego; moreoverroasting and
basting operations were continually carried on in front of
the genial blaze.

As it grew later the fire was made up in the large long hall
into which the staircase descendedand all encumbrances
were cleared out for dancing. The log which was to form the
back-brand of the evening fire was the uncleft trunk of a
treeso unwieldy that it could be neither brought nor
rolled to its place; and accordingly two men were to be
observed dragging and heaving it in by chains and levers as
the hour of assembly drew near.

In spite of all thisthe spirit of revelry was wanting in
the atmosphere of the house. Such a thing had never been
attempted before by its ownerand it was now done as by a
wrench. Intended gaieties would insist upon appearing like
solemn grandeursthe organization of the whole effort was
carried out coldlyby hirelingsand a shadow seemed to
move about the roomssaying that the proceedings were
unnatural to the place and the lone man who lived therein
and hence not good.

Bathsheba was at this time in her roomdressing for the
event. She had called for candlesand Liddy entered and
placed one on each side of her mistress's glass.

Don't go away, Liddy,said Bathshebaalmost timidly. "I
am foolishly agitated -- I cannot tell why. I wish I had
not been obliged to go to this dance; but there's no
escaping now. I have not spoken to Mr. Boldwood since the
autumnwhen I promised to see him at Christmas on business
but I had no idea there was to be anything of this kind."

But I would go now,said Liddywho was going with her;
for Boldwood had been indiscriminate in his invitations.

Yes, I shall make my appearance, of course,said
Bathsheba." But I am THE CAUSE of the partyand that
upsets me! -- Don't tellLiddy."

Oh no, ma'am. You the cause of it, ma'am?

Yes. I am the reason of the party -- I. If it had not
been for me, there would never have been one. I can't
explain any more -- there's no more to be explained. I wish
I had never seen Weatherbury.

That's wicked of you -- to wish to be worse off than you
are.

No, Liddy. I have never been free from trouble since I
have lived here, and this party is likely to bring me more.
Now, fetch my black silk dress, and see how it sits upon
me.


But you will leave off that, surely, ma'am? You have been
a widowlady fourteen months, and ought to brighten up a
little on such a night as this.

Is it necessary? No; I will appear as usual, for if I were
to wear any light dress people would say things about me,
and I should seem to he rejoicing when I am solemn all the
time. The party doesn't suit me a bit; but never mind, stay
and help to finish me off.

Boldwood was dressing also at this hour. A tailor from
Casterbridge was with himassisting him in the operation of
trying on a new coat that had just been brought home.

Never had Boldwood been so fastidiousunreasonable about
the fitand generally difficult to please. The tailor
walked round and round himtugged at the waistpulled the
sleevepressed out the collarand for the first time in
his experience Boldwood was not bored. Times had been when
the farmer had exclaimed against all such niceties as
childishbut now no philosophic or hasty rebuke whatever
was provoked by this man for attaching as much importance to
a crease in the coat as to an earthquake in South America.
Boldwood at last expressed himself nearly satisfiedand
paid the billthe tailor passing out of the door just as
Oak came in to report progress for the day.

Oh, Oak,said Boldwood. "I shall of course see you here
to-night. Make yourself merry. I am determined that
neither expense nor trouble shall be spared."

I'll try to be here, sir, though perhaps it may not be very
early,said Gabrielquietly. "I am glad indeed to see
such a change in 'ee from what it used to be."

Yes -- I must own it -- I am bright to-night: cheerful and
more than cheerful -- so much so that I am almost sad again
with the sense that all of it is passing away. And
sometimes, when I am excessively hopeful and blithe, a
trouble is looming in the distance: so that I often get to
look upon gloom in me with content, and to fear a happy
mood. Still this may be absurd -- I feel that it is absurd.
Perhaps my day is dawning at last.

I hope it 'ill be a long and a fair one.

Thank you -- thank you. Yet perhaps my cheerful mess rests
on a slender hope. And yet I trust my hope. It is faith,
not hope. I think this time I reckon with my host. -- Oak,
my hands are a little shaky, or something; I can't tie this
neckerchief properly. Perhaps you will tie it for me. The
fact is, I have not been well lately, you know.

I am sorry to hear that, sir.

Oh, it's nothing. I want it done as well as you can,
please. Is there any late knot in fashion, Oak?

I don't know, sir,said Oak. His tone had sunk to


sadness.

Boldwood approached Gabrieland as Oak tied the neckerchief
the farmer went on feverishly -


Does a woman keep her promise, Gabriel?

If it is not inconvenient to her she may.

-- Or rather an implied promise.

I won't answer for her implying,said Oakwith faint
bitterness. "That's a word as full o' holes as a sieve with
them."

Oakdon't talk like that. You have got quite cynical
lately -- how is it? We seem to have shifted our positions:
I have become the young and hopeful manand you the old and
unbelieving one. Howeverdoes a woman keep a promisenot
to marrybut to enter on an engagement to marry at some
time? Now you know women better than I -- tell me."

I am afeard you honour my understanding too much. However,
she may keep such a promise, if it is made with an honest
meaning to repair a wrong.

It has not gone far yet, but I think it will soon -- yes, I
know it will,he saidin an impulsive whisper. "I have
pressed her upon the subjectand she inclines to be kind to
meand to think of me as a husband at a long future time
and that's enough for me. How can I expect more? She has a
notion that a woman should not marry within seven years of
her husband's disappearance -- that her own self shouldn't
I mean -- because his body was not found. It may be merely
this legal reason which influences heror it may be a
religious onebut she is reluctant to talk on the point.
Yet she has promised -- implied -- that she will ratify an
engagement to-night."

Seven years,murmured Oak.

No, no -- it's no such thing!he saidwith impatience.
Five yearsnine monthsand a few days. Fifteen months
nearly have passed since he vanishedand is there anything
so wonderful in an engagement of little more than five
years?"

It seems long in a forward view. Don't build too much upon
such promises, sir. Remember, you have once be'n deceived.
Her meaning may be good; but there -- she's young yet.

Deceived? Never!said Boldwoodvehemently. "She never
promised me at that first timeand hence she did not break
her promise! If she promises meshe'll marry meBathsheba
is a woman to her word."

Troy was sitting in a corner of The White Hart tavern at
Casterbridgesmoking and drinking a steaming mixture from a
glass. A knock was given at the doorand Pennyways
entered.


Well, have you seen him?Troy inquiredpointing to a
chair.

Boldwood?

No -- Lawyer Long.

He wadn' at home. I went there first, too.

That's a nuisance.

'Tis rather, I suppose.

Yet I don't see that, because a man appears to be drowned
and was not, he should be liable for anything. I shan't ask
any lawyer -- not I.

But that's not it, exactly. If a man changes his name and
so forth, and takes steps to deceive the world and his own
wife, he's a cheat, and that in the eye of the law is ayless
a rogue, and that is ayless a lammocken vagabond; and that's
a punishable situation.

Ha-ha! Well done, Pennyways,Troy had laughedbut it was
with some anxiety that he saidNow, what I want to know is
this, do you think there's really anything going on between
her and Boldwood? Upon my soul, I should never have
believed it! How she must detest me! Have you found out
whether she has encouraged him?

I haen't been able to learn. There's a deal of feeling on
his side seemingly, but I don't answer for her. I didn't
know a word about any such thing till yesterday, and all I
heard then was that she was gwine to the party at his house
to-night. This is the first time she has ever gone there,
they say. And they say that she've not so much as spoke to
him since they were at Greenhill Fair: but what can folk
believe o't? However, she's not fond of him -- quite offish
and quite care less, I know.

I'm not so sure of that.... She's a handsome woman,
Pennyways, is she not? Own that you never saw a finer or
more splendid creature in your life. Upon my honour, when I
set eyes upon her that day I wondered what I could have been
made of to be able to leave her by herself so long. And
then I was hampered with that bothering show, which I'm free
of at last, thank the stars.He smoked on awhileand then
addedHow did she look when you passed by yesterday?

Oh, she took no great heed of me, ye may well fancy; but
she looked well enough, far's I know. Just flashed her
haughty eyes upon my poor scram body, and then let them go
past me to what was yond, much as if I'd been no more than a
leafless tree. She had just got off her mare to look at the
last wring-down of cider for the year; she had been riding,
and so her colours were up and her breath rather quick, so
that her bosom plimmed and fell -- plimmed and fell -- every
time plain to my eye. Ay, and there were the fellers round
her wringing down the cheese and bustling about and saying,
Ware o' the pommyma'am: 'twill spoil yer gown." "Never
mind me says she. Then Gabe brought her some of the new
cider, and she must needs go drinking it through a
strawmote, and not in a nateral way at all. Liddy says


she, bring indoors a few gallonsand I'll make some ciderwine."
SergeantI was no more to her than a morsel of
scroff in the fuel-house!"

I must go and find her out at once -- O yes, I see that -I
must go. Oak is head man still, isn't he?

Yes, 'a b'lieve. And at Little Weatherbury Farm too. He
manages everything.

'Twill puzzle him to manage her, or any other man of his
compass!

I don't know about that. She can't do without him, and
knowing it well he's pretty independent. And she've a few
soft corners to her mind, though I've never been able to get
into one, the devil's in't!

Ah, baily, she's a notch above you, and you must own it: a
higher class of animal -- a finer tissue. However, stick to
me, and neither this haughty goddess, dashing piece of
womanhood, Juno-wife of mine (Juno was a goddess, you know),
nor anybody else shall hurt you. But all this wants looking
into, I perceive. What with one thing and another, I see
that my work is well cut out for me.

How do I look to-night, Liddy?said Bathshebagiving a
final adjustment to her dress before leaving the glass.

I never saw you look so well before. Yes -- I'll tell you
when you looked like it -- that night, a year and a half
ago, when you came in so wildlike, and scolded us for making
remarks about you and Mr. Troy.

Everybody will think that I am setting myself to captivate
Mr. Boldwood, I suppose,she murmured. "At least they'll
say so. Can't my hair be brushed down a little flatter?
I dread going -- yet I dread the risk of wounding him by
staying away."

Anyhow, ma'am, you can't well be dressed plainer than you
are, unless you go in sackcloth at once. 'Tis your
excitement is what makes you look so noticeable to-night.

I don't know what's the matter, I feel wretched at one
time, and buoyant at another. I wish I could have continued
quite alone as I have been for the last year or so, with no
hopes and no fears, and no pleasure and no grief.

Now just suppose Mr. Boldwood should ask you -- only just
suppose it -- to run away with him, what would you do,
ma'am?

Liddy -- none of that,said Bathshebagravely. "MindI
won't hear joking on any such matter. Do you hear?"

I beg pardon, ma'am. But knowing what rum things we women
be, I just said -- however, I won't speak of it again.

No marrying for me yet for many a year; if ever, 'twill be


for reasons very, very different from those you think, or
others will believe! Now get my cloak, for it is time to
go.

Oak,said Boldwoodbefore you go I want to mention what
has been passing in my mind lately -- that little
arrangement we made about your share in the farm I mean.
That share is small, too small, considering how little I
attend to business now, and how much time and thought you
give to it. Well, since the world is brightening for me, I
want to show my sense of it by increasing your proportion in
the partnership. I'll make a memorandum of the arrangement
which struck me as likely to be convenient, for I haven't
time to talk about it now; and then we'll discuss it at our
leisure. My intention is ultimately to retire from the
management altogether, and until you can take all the
expenditure upon your shoulders, I'll be a sleeping partner
in the stock. Then, if I marry her -- and I hope -- I feel
I shall, why ----

Pray don't speak of it, sir,said Oakhastily. "We don't
know what may happen. So many upsets may befall 'ee.
There's many a slipas they say -- and I would advise you --
I know you'll pardon me this once -- not to be TOO SURE."

I know, I know. But the feeling I have about increasing
your share is on account of what I know of you Oak, I have
learnt a little about your secret: your interest in her is
more than that of bailiff for an employer. But you have
behaved like a man, and I, as a sort of successful rival -successful
partly through your goodness of heart -- should
like definitely to show my sense of your friendship under
what must have been a great pain to you.

O that's not necessary, thank 'ee,said Oakhurriedly.
I must get used to such as that; other men have, and so
shall I.

Oak then left him. He was uneasy on Boldwood's accountfor
he saw anew that this constant passion of the farmer made
him not the man he once had been.

As Boldwood continued awhile in his room alone -- ready and
dressed to receive his company -- the mood of anxiety about
his appearance seemed to pass awayand to be succeeded by a
deep solemnity. He looked out of the windowand regarded
the dim outline of the trees upon the skyand the twilight
deepening to darkness.

Then he went to a locked closetand took from a locked
drawer therein a small circular case the size of a pillbox
and was about to put it into his pocket. But he lingered to
open the cover and take a momentary glance inside. It
contained a woman's finger-ringset all the way round with
small diamondsand from its appearance had evidently been
recently purchased. Boldwood's eyes dwelt upon its many
sparkles a long timethough that its material aspect
concerned him little was plain from his manner and mien
which were those of a mind following out the presumed thread
of that jewel's future history.


The noise of wheels at the front of the house became
audible. Boldwood closed the boxstowed it away carefully
in his pocketand went out upon the landing. The old man
who was his indoor factotum came at the same moment to the
foot of the stairs.

They be coming, sir -- lots of 'em -- a-foot and adriving!


I was coming down this moment. Those wheels I heard -- is
it Mrs. Troy?

No, sir -- 'tis not she yet.

A reserved and sombre expression had returned to Boldwood's
face againbut it poorly cloaked his feelings when he
pronounced Bathsheba's name; and his feverish anxiety
continued to show its existence by a galloping motion of his
fingers upon the side of his thigh as he went down the
stairs.

How does this cover me?said Troy to PennywaysNobody
would recognize me now, I'm sure.

He was buttoning on a heavy grey overcoat of Noachian cut
with cape and high collarthe latter being erect and rigid
like a girdling walland nearly reaching to the verge of
travelling cap which was pulled down over his ears.

Pennyways snuffed the candleand then looked up and
deliberately inspected Troy.

You've made up your mind to go then?he said.

Made up my mind? Yes; of course I have.

Why not write to her? 'Tis a very queer corner that you
have got into, sergeant. You see all these things will come
to light if you go back, and they won't sound well at all.
Faith, if I was you I'd even bide as you be -- a single man
of the name of Francis. A good wife is good, but the best
wife is not so good as no wife at all. Now that's my
outspoke mind, and I've been called a long-headed feller
here and there.

All nonsense!said Troyangrily. "There she is with
plenty of moneyand a house and farmand horsesand
comfortand here am I living from hand to mouth -- a needy
adventurer. Besidesit is no use talking now; it is too
lateand I am glad of it; I've been seen and recognized
here this very afternoon. I should have gone back to her
the day after the fairif it hadn't been for you talking
about the lawand rubbish about getting a separation; and I
don't put it off any longer. What the deuce put it into my
head to run away at allI can't think! Humbugging
sentiment -- that's what it was. But what man on earth was
to know that his wife would be in such a hurry to get rid of
his name!"


I should have known it. She's bad enough for anything.

Pennyways, mind who you are talking to.

Well, sergeant, all I say is this, that if I were you I'd
go abroad again where I came from -- 'tisn't too late to do
it now. I wouldn't stir up the business and get a bad name
for the sake of living with her -- for all that about your
play-acting is sure to come out, you know, although you
think otherwise. My eyes and limbs, there'll be a racket if
you go back just now -- in the middle of Boldwood's
Christmasing!

H'm, yes. I expect I shall not be a very welcome guest if
he has her there,said the sergeantwith a slight laugh.
A sort of Alonzo the Brave; and when I go in the guests
will sit in silence and fear, and all laughter and pleasure
will be hushed, and the lights in the chamber burn blue, and
the worms -- Ugh, horrible! -- Ring for some more brandy,
Pennyways, I felt an awful shudder just then! Well, what is
there besides? A stick -- I must have a walking-stick.

Pennyways now felt himself to be in something of a
difficultyfor should Bathsheba and Troy become reconciled
it would be necessary to regain her good opinion if he would
secure the patronage of her husband. I sometimes think she
likes you yetand is a good woman at bottom he said, as a
saving sentence. But there's no telling to a certainty
from a body's outside. Wellyou'll do as you like about
goingof coursesergeantand as for meI'll do as you
tell me."

Now, let me see what the time is,said Troyafter
emptying his glass in one draught as he stood. 'Half-past
six o'clock. I shall not hurry along the roadand shall be
there then before nine."

CHAPTER LIII

CONCURRITUR -- HORAE MOMENTO

OUTSIDE the front of Boldwood's house a group of men stood
in the darkwith their faces towards the doorwhich
occasionally opened and closed for the passage of some guest
or servantwhen a golden rod of light would stripe the
ground for the moment and vanish againleaving nothing
outside but the glowworm shine of the pale lamp amid the
evergreens over the door.

He was seen in Casterbridge this afternoon -- so the boy
said,one of them remarked in a whisper. "And l for one
believe it. His body was never foundyou know."

'Tis a strange story,said the next. "You may depend
upon't that she knows nothing about it."

Not a word.

Perhaps he don't mean that she shall,said another man.

If he's alive and here in the neighbourhood, he means


mischief,said the first. "Poor young thing: I do pity
herif 'tis true. He'll drag her to the dogs."

O no; he'll settle down quiet enough,said one disposed to
take a more hopeful view of the case.

What a fool she must have been ever to have had anything to
do with the man! She is so self-willed and independent too,
that one is more minded to say it serves her right than pity
her.

No, no. I don't hold with 'ee there. She was no otherwise
than a girl mind, and how could she tell what the man was
made of? If 'tis really true, 'tis too hard a punishment,
and more than she ought to hae. -- Hullo, who's that?This
was to some footsteps that were heard approaching.

William Smallbury,said a dim figure in the shadescoming
up and joining them. "Dark as a hedgeto-nightisn't it?
I all but missed the plank over the river ath'art there in
the bottom -- never did such a thing before in my life. Be
ye any of Boldwood's workfolk?" He peered into their faces.

Yes -- all o' us. We met here a few minutes ago.

Oh, I hear now -- that's Sam Samway: thought I knowed the
voice, too. Going in?

Presently. But I say, William,Samway whisperedhave ye
heard this strange tale?

What -- that about Sergeant Troy being seen, d'ye mean,
souls?said Smallburyalso lowering his voice.

Ay: in Casterbridge.

Yes, I have. Laban Tall named a hint of it to me but now -but
I don't think it. Hark, here Laban comes himself, 'a
b'lieve.A footstep drew near.

Laban?

Yes, 'tis I,said Tall. "Have ye heard any more about
that?"

No,said Talljoining the group. "And I'm inclined to
think we'd better keep quiet. If so be 'tis not true
'twill flurry herand do her much harm to repeat it; and if
so be 'tis true'twill do no good to forestall her time o'
trouble. God send that it mid be a liefor though Henery
Fray and some of 'em do speak against hershe's never been
anything but fair to me. She's hot and hastybut she's a
brave girl who'll never tell a lie however much the truth
may harm herand I've no cause to wish her evil."

She never do tell women's little lies, that's true; and
'tis a thing that can be said of very few. Ay, all the harm
she thinks she says to yer face: there's nothing underhand
wi' her.

They stood silent thenevery man busied with his own
thoughtsduring which interval sounds of merriment could be
heard within. Then the front door again openedthe rays
streamed outthe well-known form of Boldwood was seen in


the rectangular area of lightthe door closedand Boldwood
walked slowly down the path.

'Tis master,one of the men whisperedas he neared them.
We'd better stand quiet -- he'll go in again directly. He
would think it unseemly o' us to be loitering here.

Boldwood came on, and passed by the men without seeing them,
they being under the bushes on the grass. He paused, leant
over the gate, and breathed a long breath. They heard low
words come from him.

I hope to God she'll comeor this night will be nothing
but misery to me! Oh my darlingmy darlingwhy do you
keep me in suspense like this?"

He said this to himselfand they all distinctly heard it.
Boldwood remained silent after thatand the noise from
indoors was again just audibleuntila few minutes later
light wheels could be distinguished coming down the hill.
They drew nearerand ceased at the gate. Boldwood hastened
back to the doorand opened it; and the light shone upon
Bathsheba coming up the path.

Boldwood compressed his emotion to mere welcome: the men
marked her light laugh and apology as she met him: he took
her into the house; and the door closed again.

Gracious heaven, I didn't know it was like that with him!
said one of the men. "I thought that fancy of his was over
long ago."

You don't know much of master, if you thought that,said
Samway.

I wouldn't he should know we heard what 'a said for the
world,remarked a third.

I wish we had told of the report at once,the first
uneasily continued. "More harm may come of this than we
know of. Poor Mr. Boldwoodit will be hard upon en. I
wish Troy was in ---- WellGod forgive me for such a wish!
A scoundrel to play a poor wife such tricks. Nothing has
prospered in Weatherbury since he came here. And now I've
no heart to go in. Let's look into Warren's for a few
minutes firstshall usneighbours?"

SamwayTalland Smallbury agreed to go to Warren'sand
went out at the gatethe remaining ones entering the house.
The three soon drew near the malt-houseapproaching it from
the adjoining orchardand not by way of the street. The
pane of glass was illuminated as usual. Smallbury was a
little in advance of the rest whenpausinghe turned
suddenly to his companions and saidHist! See there.

The light from the pane was now perceived to be shining not
upon the ivied wall as usualbut upon some object close to
the glass. It was a human face.

Let's come closer,whispered Samway; and they approached
on tiptoe. There was no disbelieving the report any longer.
Troy's face was almost close to the paneand he was looking
in. Not only was he looking inbut he appeared to have
been arrested by a conversation which was in progress in the


malt-housethe voices of the interlocutors being those of
Oak and the maltster.

The spree is all in her honour, isn't it -- hey?said the
old man. "Although he made believe 'tis only keeping up o'
Christmas?"

I cannot say,replied Oak.

Oh 'tis true enough, faith. I cannot understand Farmer
Boldwood being such a fool at his time of life as to ho and
hanker after thik woman in the way 'a do, and she not care a
bit about en.

The menafter recognizing Troy's featureswithdrew across
the orchard as quietly as they had come. The air was big
with Bathsheba's fortunes to-night: every word everywhere
concerned her. When they were quite out of earshot all by
one instinct paused.

It gave me quite a turn -- his face,said Tallbreathing.

And so it did me,said Samway. "What's to be done?"

I don't see that 'tis any business of ours,Smallbury
murmured dubiously.

But it is! 'Tis a thing which is everybody's business,
said Samway. "We know very well that master's on a wrong
tackand that she's quite in the darkand we should let
'em know at once. Labanyou know her best -- you'd better
go and ask to speak to her."

I bain't fit for any such thing,said Labannervously.
I should think William ought to do it if anybody. He's
oldest.

I shall have nothing to do with it,said Smallbury. "'Tis
a ticklish business altogether. Whyhe'll go on to her
himself in a few minutesye'll see."

We don't know that he will. Come, Laban.

Very well, if I must I must, I suppose,Tall reluctantly
answered. "What must I say?"

Just ask to see master.

Oh no; I shan't speak to Mr. Boldwood. If I tell anybody,
'twill be mistress.

Very well,said Samway.

Laban then went to the door. When he opened it the hum of
bustle rolled out as a wave upon a still strand -- the
assemblage being immediately inside the hall -- and was
deadened to a murmur as he closed it again. Each man waited
intentlyand looked around at the dark tree tops gently
rocking against the sky and occasionally shivering in a
slight windas if he took interest in the scenewhich
neither did. One of them began walking up and downand
then came to where he started from and stopped againwith a
sense that walking was a thing not worth doing now.


I should think Laban must have seen mistress by this time,
said Smallburybreaking the silence. "Perhaps she won't
come and speak to him."

The door opened. Tall appearedand joined them.

Well?said both.

I didn't like to ask for her after all,Laban faltered
out. "They were all in such a stirtrying to put a little
spirit into the party. Somehow the fun seems to hang fire
though everything's there that a heart can desireand I
couldn't for my soul interfere and throw damp upon it -- if
'twas to save my lifeI couldn't!"

I suppose we had better all go in together,said Samway
gloomily. "Perhaps I may have a chance of saying a word to
master."

So the men entered the hallwhich was the room selected and
arranged for the gathering because of its size. The younger
men and maids were at last just beginning to dance.
Bathsheba had been perplexed how to actfor she was not
much more than a slim young maid herselfand the weight of
stateliness sat heavy upon her. Sometimes she thought she
ought not to have come under any circumstances; then she
considered what cold unkindness that would have beenand
finally resolved upon the middle course of staying for about
an hour onlyand gliding off unobservedhaving from the
first made up her mind that she could on no account dance
singor take any active part in the proceedings.

Her allotted hour having been passed in chatting and looking
onBathsheba told Liddy not to hurry herselfand went to
the small parlour to prepare for departurewhichlike the
hallwas decorated with holly and ivyand well lighted up.

Nobody was in the roombut she had hardly been there a
moment when the master of the house entered.

Mrs. Troy -- you are not going?he said. "We've hardly
begun!"

If you'll excuse me, I should like to go now.Her manner
was restivefor she remembered her promiseand imagined
what he was about to say. "But as it is not late she
added, I can walk homeand leave my man and Liddy to come
when they choose."

I've been trying to get an opportunity of speaking to you,
said Boldwood. "You know perhaps what I long to say?"

Bathsheba silently looked on the floor.

You do give it?he saideagerly.

What?she whispered.

Now, that's evasion! Why, the promise. I don't want to
intrude upon you at all, or to let it become known to
anybody. But do give your word! A mere business compact,
you know, between two people who are beyond the influence of
passion.Boldwood knew how false this picture was as
regarded himself; but he had proved that it was the only


tone in which she would allow him to approach her. "A
promise to marry me at the end of five years and threequarters.
You owe it to me!"

I feel that I do,said Bathsheba; "that isif you demand
it. But I am a changed woman -- an unhappy woman -- and not
-- not ----"

You are still a very beautiful woman,said Boldwood.
Honesty and pure conviction suggested the remark
unaccompanied by any perception that it might have been
adopted by blunt flattery to soothe and win her.

Howeverit had not much effect nowfor she saidin a
passionless murmur which was in itself a proof of her words:
I have no feeling in the matter at all. And I don't at all
know what is right to do in my difficult position, and I
have nobody to advise me. But I give my promise, if I must.
I give it as the rendering of a debt, conditionally, of
course, on my being a widow.

You'll marry me between five and six years hence?

Don't press me too hard. I'll marry nobody else.

But surely you will name the time, or there's nothing in
the promise at all?

OhI don't knowpray let me go!" she saidher bosom
beginning to rise. "I am afraid what to do! want to be just
to youand to be that seems to be wronging myselfand
perhaps it is breaking the commandments. There is
considerable doubt of his deathand then it is dreadful;
let me ask a solicitorMr. Boldwoodif I ought or no!"

Say the words, dear one, and the subject shall be
dismissed; a blissful loving intimacy of six years, and then
marriage -- O Bathsheba, say them!he begged in a husky
voiceunable to sustain the forms of mere friendship any
longer. "Promise yourself to me; I deserve itindeed I do
for I have loved you more than anybody in the world! And if
I said hasty words and showed uncalled-for heat of manner
towards youbelieve medearI did not mean to distress
you; I was in agonyBathshebaand I did not know what I
said. You wouldn't let a dog suffer what I have suffered
could you but know it! Sometimes I shrink from your knowing
what I have felt for youand sometimes I am distressed that
all of it you never will know. Be graciousand give up a
little to mewhen I would give up my life for you!"

The trimmings of her dressas they quivered against the
lightshowed how agitated she wasand at last she burst
out crying. 'And you'll not -- press me -- about anything
more -- if I say in five or six years?" she sobbedwhen she
had power to frame the words.

Yes, then I'll leave it to time.

She waited a moment. "Very well. I'll marry you in six
years from this dayif we both live she said solemnly.

And you'll take this as a token from me."

Boldwood had come close to her sideand now he clasped one


of her hands in both his ownand lifted it to his breast.

What is it? Oh I cannot wear a ring!she exclaimedon
seeing what he held; "besidesI wouldn't have a soul know
that it's an engagement! Perhaps it is improper? Besides
we are not engaged in the usual senseare we? Don't
insistMr. Boldwood -- don't!" In her trouble at not being
able to get her hand away from him at onceshe stamped
passionately on the floor with one footand tears crowded
to her eyes again.

It means simply a pledge -- no sentiment -- the seal of a
practical compact,he said more quietlybut still
retaining her hand in his firm grasp. "Comenow!" And
Boldwood slipped the ring on her finger.

I cannot wear it,she saidweeping as if her heart would
break. "You frighten mealmost. So wild a scheme! Please
let me go home!"

Only to-night: wear it just to-night, to please me!

Bathsheba sat down in a chairand buried her face in her
handkerchiefthough Boldwood kept her hand yet. At length
she saidin a sort of hopeless whisper -


Very well, then, I will to-night, if you wish it so
earnestly. Now loosen my hand; I will, indeed I will wear
it to-night.

And it shall be the beginning of a pleasant secret
courtship of six years, with a wedding at the end?

It must be, I suppose, since you will have it so!she
saidfairly beaten into non-resistance.

Boldwood pressed her handand allowed it to drop in her
lap. "I am happy now he said. God bless you!"

He left the roomand when he thought she might be
sufficiently composed sent one of the maids to her.
Bathsheba cloaked the effects of the late scene as she best
couldfollowed the girland in a few moments came
downstairs with her hat and cloak onready to go. To get
to the door it was necessary to pass through the halland
before doing so she paused on the bottom of the staircase
which descended into one cornerto take a last look at the
gathering.

There was no music or dancing in progress just now. At the
lower endwhich had been arranged for the work-folk
speciallya group conversed in whispersand with clouded
looks. Boldwood was standing by the fireplaceand hetoo
though so absorbed in visions arising from her promise that
he scarcely saw anythingseemed at that moment to have
observed their peculiar mannerand their looks askance.

What is it you are in doubt about, men?he said.

One of them turned and replied uneasily: "It was something
Laban heard ofthat's allsir."

News? Anybody married or engaged, born or dead?inquired
the farmergaily. "Tell it to usTall. One would think


from your looks and mysterious ways that it was something
very dreadful indeed."

Oh no, sir, nobody is dead,said Tall.

I wish somebody was,said Samwayin a whisper.

What do you say, Samway?asked Boldwoodsomewhat sharply.
If you have anything to say, speak out; if not, get up
another dance.

Mrs. Troy has come downstairs,said Samway to Tall. "If
you want to tell heryou had better do it now."

Do you know what they mean?the farmer asked Bathsheba
across the room.

I don't in the least,said Bathsheba.

There was a smart rapping at the door. One of the men
opened it instantlyand went outside.

Mrs. Troy is wanted,he saidon returning.

Quite ready,said Bathsheba. "Though I didn't tell them
to send."

It is a stranger, ma'am,said the man by the door.

A stranger?she said.

Ask him to come in,said Boldwood.

The message was givenand Troywrapped up to his eyes as
we have seen himstood in the doorway.

There was an unearthly silenceall looking towards the
newcomer. Those who had just learnt that he was in the
neighbourhood recognized him instantly; those who did not
were perplexed. Nobody noted Bathsheba. She was leaning on
the stairs. Her brow had heavily contracted; her whole face
was pallidher lips aparther eyes rigidly staring at
their visitor.

Boldwood was among those who did not notice that he was
Troy. "Come income in!" he repeatedcheerfullyand
drain a Christmas beaker with us, stranger!

Troy next advanced into the middle of the roomtook off his
capturned down his coat-collarand looked Boldwood in the
face. Even then Boldwood did not recognize that the
impersonator of Heaven's persistent irony towards himwho
had once before broken in upon his blissscourged himand
snatched his delight awayhad come to do these things a
second time. Troy began to laugh a mechanical laugh:
Boldwood recognized him now.

Troy turned to Bathsheba. The poor girl's wretchedness at
this time was beyond all fancy or narration. She had sunk
down on the lowest stair; and there she sather mouth blue
and dryand her dark eyes fixed vacantly upon himas if
she wondered whether it were not all a terrible illusion.

Then Troy spoke. "BathshebaI come here for you!"


She made no reply.

Come home with me: come!

Bathsheba moved her feet a little, but did not rise. Troy
went across to her.

Comemadamdo you hear what I say?" he said
peremptorily.

A strange voice came from the fireplace -- a voice sounding
far off and confinedas if from a dungeon. Hardly a soul
in the assembly recognized the thin tones to be those of
Boldwood. Sudden dispaire had transformed him.

Bathsheba, go with your husband!

Neverthelessshe did not move. The truth was that
Bathsheba was beyond the pale of activity -- and yet not in
a swoon. She was in a state of mental GUTTA SERENA; her
mind was for the minute totally deprived of light at the
same time no obscuration was apparent from without.

Troy stretched out his hand to pull her her towards him
when she quickly shrank back. This visible dread of him
seemed to irritate Troyand he seized her arm and pulled it
sharply. Whether his grasp pinched heror whether his mere
touch was the 'causewas never knownbut at the moment of
his seizure she writhedand gave a quicklow scream.

The scream had been heard but a few seconds when it was
followed by sudden deafening report that echoed through the
room and stupefied them all. The oak partition shook with
the concussionand the place was filled with grey smoke.

In bewilderment they turned their eyes to Boldwood. At his
backas stood before the fireplacewas a gun-rackas is
usual in farmhousesconstructed to hold two guns. When
Bathsheba had cried out in her husband's graspBoldwood's
face of gnashing despair had changed. The veins had
swollenand a frenzied look had gleamed in his eye. He had
turned quicklytaken one of the gunscocked itand at
once discharged it at Troy.

Troy fell. The distance apart of the two men was so small
that the charge of shot did not spread in the leastbut
passed like a bullet into his body. He uttered a long
guttural sigh -- there was a contraction -- an extension -then
his muscles relaxedand he lay still.

Boldwood was seen through the smoke to be now again engaged
with the gun. It was double-barrelledand he had
meanwhilein some way fastened his hand-kerchief to the
triggerand with his foot on the other end was in the act
of turning the second barrel upon himself. Samway his man
was the first to see thisand in the midst of the general
horror darted up to him. Boldwood had already twitched the
handkerchiefand the gun exploded a second timesending
its contentsby a timely blow from Samwayinto the beam
which crossed the ceiling.

Well, it makes no difference!Boldwood gasped. "There is
another way for me to die."


Then he broke from Samwaycrossed the room to Bathsheba
and kissed her hand. He put on his hatopened the door
and went into the darknessnobody thinking of preventing
him.

CHAPTER LIV

AFTER THE SHOCK

BOLDWOOD passed into the high road and turned in the
direction of Casterbridge. Here he walked at an even
steady pace over Yalbury Hillalong the dead level beyond
mounted Mellstock Hilland between eleven and twelve
o'clock crossed the Moor into the town. The streets were
nearly deserted nowand the waving lamp-flames only lighted
up rows of grey shop-shuttersand strips of white paving
upon which his step echoed as his passed along. He turned
to the rightand halted before an archway of heavy
stoneworkwhich was closed by an iron studded pair of
doors. This was the entrance to the gaoland over it a
lamp was fixedthe light enabling the wretched traveller to
find a bell-pull.

The small wicket at last openedand a porter appeared.
Boldwood stepped forwardand said something in a low tone
whenafter a delayanother man came. Boldwood entered
and the door was closed behind himand he walked the world
no more.

Long before this time Weatherbury had been thoroughly
arousedand the wild deed which had terminated Boldwood's
merrymaking became known to all. Of those out of the house
Oak was one of the first to hear of the catastropheand
when he entered the roomwhich was about five minutes after
Boldwood's exitthe scene was terrible. All the female
guests were huddled aghast against the walls like sheep in a
stormand the men were bewildered as to what to do. As for
Bathshebashe had changed. She was sitting on the floor
beside the body of Troyhis head pillowed in her lapwhere
she had herself lifted it. With one hand she held her
handkerchief to his breast and covered the woundthough
scarcely a single drop of blood had flowedand with the
other she tightly clasped one of his. The household
convulsion had made her herself again. The temporary coma
had ceasedand activity had come with the necessity for it.
Deeds of endurancewhich seem ordinary in philosophyare
rare in conductand Bathsheba was astonishing all around
her nowfor her philosophy was her conductand she seldom
thought practicable what she did not practise. She was of
the stuff of which great men's mothers are made. She was
indispensable to high generationhated at tea parties
feared in shopsand loved at crises. Troy recumbent in his
wife's lap formed now the sole spectacle in the middle of
the spacious room.

Gabriel,she saidautomaticallywhen he enteredturning
up a face of which only the wellknown lines remained to tell
him it was hersall else in the picture having faded quite.
Ride to Casterbridge instantly for a surgeon. It is, I
believe, useless, but go. Mr. Boldwood has shot my


husband.

Her statement of the fact in such quiet and simple words
came with more force than a tragic declamationand had
somewhat the effect of setting the distorted images in each
mind present into proper focus. Oakalmost before he had
comprehended anything beyond the briefest abstract of the
eventhurried out of the roomsaddled a horse and rode
away. Not till he had ridden more than a mile did it occur
to him that he would have done better by sending some other
man on this errandremaining himself in the house. What
had become of Boldwood? He should have been looked after.
Was he mad -- had there been a quarrel? Then how had Troy
got there? Where had he come from? How did this remarkable
reappearance effect itself when he was supposed by many to
be at the bottom of the sea? Oak had in some slight measure
been prepared for the presence of Troy by hearing a rumour
of his return just before entering Boldwood's house; but
before he had weighed that informationthis fatal event had
been superimposed. Howeverit was too late now to think of
sending another messengerand he rode onin the excitement
of these self-inquiries not discerningwhen about three
miles from Casterbridgea square-figured pedestrian passing
along under the dark hedge in the same direction as his own.

The miles necessary to be traversedand other hindrances
incidental to the lateness of the hour and the darkness of
the nightdelayed the arrival of Mr. Aldritchthe surgeon;
and more than three hours passed between the time at which
the shot was fired and that of his entering the house. Oak
was additionally detained in Casterbridge through having to
give notice to the authorities of what had happened; and he
then found that Boldwood had also entered the townand
delivered himself up.

In the meantime the surgeonhaving hastened into the hall
at Boldwood'sfound it in darkness and quite deserted. He
went on to the back of the housewhere he discovered in the
kitchen an old manof whom he made inquiries.

She's had him took away to her own house, sir,said his
informant.

Who has?said the doctor.

Mrs. Troy. 'A was quite dead, sir.

This was astonishing information. "She had no right to do
that said the doctor. There will have to be an inquest
and she should have waited to know what to do."

Yes, sir; it was hinted to her that she had better wait
till the law was known. But she said law was nothing to
her, and she wouldn't let her dear husband's corpse bide
neglected for folks to stare at for all the crowners in
England.

Mr. Aldritch drove at once back again up the hill to
Bathsheba's. The first person he met was poor Liddywho
seemed literally to have dwindled smaller in these few
latter hours. "What has been done?" he said.

I don't know, sir,said Liddywith suspended breath. "My
mistress has done it all."


Where is she?

Upstairs with him, sir. When he was brought home and taken
upstairs, she said she wanted no further help from the men.
And then she called me, and made me fill the bath, and after
that told me I had better go and lie down because I looked
so ill. Then she locked herself into the room alone with
him, and would not let a nurse come in, or anybody at all.
But I thought I'd wait in the next room in case she should
want me. I heard her moving about inside for more than an
hour, but she only came out once, and that was for more
candles, because hers had burnt down into the socket. She
said we were to let her know when you or Mr. Thirdly came,
sir.

Oak entered with the parson at this momentand they all
went upstairs togetherpreceded by Liddy Smallbury.
Everything was silent as the grave when they paused on the
landing. Liddy knockedand Bathsheba's dress was heard
rustling across the room: the key turned in the lockand
she opened the door. Her looks were calm and nearly rigid
like a slightly animated bust of Melpomene.

Oh, Mr. Aldritch, you have come at last,she murmured from
her lips merelyand threw back the door. "Ahand Mr.
Thirdly. Wellall is doneand anybody in the world may
see him now." She then passed by himcrossed the landing
and entered another room.

Looking into the chamber of death she had vacated they saw
by the light of the candles which were on the drawers a tall
straight shape lying at the further end of the bedroom
wrapped in white. Everything around was quite orderly. The
doctor went inand after a few minutes returned to the
landing againwhere Oak and the parson still waited.

It is all done, indeed, as she says,remarked Mr.
Aldritchin a subdued voice. "The body has been undressed
and properly laid out in grave clothes. Gracious Heaven -this
mere girl! She must have the nerve of a stoic!"

The heart of a wife merely,floated in a whisper about the
ears of the threeand turning they saw Bathsheba in the
midst of them. Thenas if at that instant to prove that
her fortitude had been more of will than of spontaneityshe
silently sank down between them and was a shapeless heap of
drapery on the floor. The simple consciousness that
superhuman strain was no longer required had at once put a
period to her power to continue it.

They took her away into a further roomand the medical
attendance which had been useless in Troy's case was
invaluable in Bathsheba'swho fell into a series of
fainting-fits that had a serious aspect for a time. The
sufferer was got to bedand Oakfinding from the bulletins
that nothing really dreadful was to be apprehended on her
scoreleft the house. Liddy kept watch in Bathsheba's
chamberwhere she heard her mistressmoaning in whispers
through the dull slow hours of that wretched night: "Oh it
is my fault -- how can I live! O Heavenhow can I live!"

CHAPTER LV


THE MARCH FOLLOWING -- "BATHSHEBA BOLDWOOD"

WE pass rapidly on into the month of Marchto a breezy day
without sunshinefrostor dew. On Yalbury Hillabout
midway between Weatherbury and Casterbridgewhere the
turnpike road passes over the cresta numerous concourse of
people had gatheredthe eyes of the greater number being
frequently stretched afar in a northerly direction. The
groups consisted of a throng of idlersa party of javelinmen
and two trumpetersand in the midst were carriages
one of which contained the high sheriff. With the idlers
many of whom had mounted to the top of a cutting formed for
the roadwere several Weatherbury men and boys -- among
others PoorgrassCogganand Cain Ball.

At the end of half-an-hour a faint dust was seen in the
expected quarterand shortly after a travelling-carriage
bringing one of the two judges on the Western Circuitcame
up the hill and halted on the top. The judge changed
carriages whilst a flourish was blown by the big-cheeked
trumpetersand a procession being formed of the vehicles
and javelin-menthey all proceeded towards the town
excepting the Weatherbury menwho as soon as they had seen
the judge move off returned home again to their work.

Joseph, I seed you squeezing close to the carriage,said
Cogganas they walked. "Did ye notice my lord judge's
face?"

I did,said Poorgrass. "I looked hard at enas if I
would read his very soul; and there was mercy in his eyes -or
to speak with the exact truth required of us at this
solemn timein the eye that was towards me."

Well, I hope for the best,said Cogganthough bad that
must be. However, I shan't go to the trial, and I'd advise
the rest of ye that bain't wanted to bide away. 'Twill
disturb his mind more than anything to see us there staring
at him as if he were a show.

The very thing I said this morning,observed Joseph
'Justice is come to weigh him in the balances,' I said in
my reflectious way, 'and if he's found wanting, so be it
unto him,' and a bystander said 'Hear, hear! A man who can
talk like that ought to be heard.' But I don't like dwelling
upon it, for my few words are my few words, and not much;
though the speech of some men is rumoured abroad as though
by nature formed for such.

So 'tis, Joseph. And now, neighbours, as I said, every man
bide at home.

The resolution was adhered to; and all waited anxiously for
the news next day. Their suspense was divertedhoweverby
a discovery which was made in the afternoonthrowing more
light on Boldwood's conduct and condition than any details
which had preceded it.

That he had been from the time of Greenhill Fair until the
fatal Christmas Eve in excited and unusual moods was known
to those who had been intimate with him; but nobody imagined


that there had shown in him unequivocal symptoms of the
mental derangement which Bathsheba and Oakalone of all
others and at different timeshad momentarily suspected.
In a locked closet was now discovered an extraordinary
collection of articles. There were several sets of ladies'
dresses in the pieceof sundry expensive materials; silks
and satinspoplins and velvetsall of colours which from
Bathsheba's style of dress might have been judged to be her
favourites. There were two muffssable and ermine. Above
all there was a case of jewellerycontaining four heavy
gold bracelets and several lockets and ringsall of fine
quality and manufacture. These things had been bought in
Bath and other towns from time to timeand brought home by
stealth. They were all carefully packed in paperand each
package was labelled "Bathsheba Boldwood a date being
subjoined six years in advance in every instance.

These somewhat pathetic evidences of a mind crazed with care
and love were the subject of discourse in Warren's malthouse
when Oak entered from Casterbridge with tidings of
sentence. He came in the afternoon, and his face, as the
kiln glow shone upon it, told the tale sufficiently well.
Boldwood, as every one supposed he would do, had pleaded
guilty, and had been sentenced to death.

The conviction that Boldwood had not been morally
responsible for his later acts now became general. Facts
elicited previous to the trial had pointed strongly in the
same direction, but they had not been of sufficient weight
to lead to an order for an examination into the state of
Boldwood's mind. It was astonishing, now that a presumption
of insanity was raised, how many collateral circumstances
were remembered to which a condition of mental disease
seemed to afford the only explanation -- among others, the
unprecedented neglect of his corn stacks in the previous
summer.

A petition was addressed to the Home Secretary, advancing
the circumstances which appeared to justify a request for a
reconsideration of the sentence. It was not numerously
signed" by the inhabitants of Casterbridgeas is usual in
such casesfor Boldwood had never made many friends over
the counter. The shops thought it very natural that a man
whoby importing direct from the producerhad daringly set
aside the first great principle of provincial existence
namely that God made country villages to supply customers to
county townsshould have confused ideas about the
Decalogue. The prompters were a few merciful men who had
perhaps too feelingly considered the facts latterly
unearthedand the result was that evidence was taken which
it was hoped might remove the crime in a moral point of
viewout of the category of wilful murderand lead it to
be regarded as a sheer outcome of madness.

The upshot of the petition was waited for in Weatherbury
with solicitous interest. The execution had been fixed for
eight o'clock on a Saturday morning about a fortnight after
the sentence was passedand up to Friday afternoon no
answer had been received. At that time Gabriel came from
Casterbridge Gaolwhither he had been to wish Boldwood
good-byeand turned down a by-street to avoid the town.
When past the last house he heard a hammeringand lifting
his bowed head he looked back for a moment. Over the
chimneys he could see the upper part of the gaol entrance


rich and glowing in the afternoon sunand some moving
figures were there. They were carpenters lifting a post
into a vertical position within the parapet. He withdrew
his eyes quicklyand hastened on.

It was dark when he reached homeand half the village was
out to meet him.

No tidings,Gabriel saidwearily. "And I'm afraid
there's no hope. I've been with him more than two hours."

Do ye think he REALLY was out of his mind when he did it?
said Smallbury.

I can't honestly say that I do,Oak replied. "However
that we can talk of another time. Has there been any change
in mistress this afternoon?"

None at all.

Is she downstairs?

No. And getting on so nicely as she was too. She's but
very little better now again than she was at Christmas. She
keeps on asking if you be come, and if there's news, till
one's wearied out wi' answering her. Shall I go and say
you've come?

No,said Oak. "There's a chance yet; but I couldn't stay
in town any longer -- after seeing him too. So Laban --
Laban is hereisn't he?"

Yes,said Tall.

What I've arranged is, that you shall ride to town the last
thing to-night; leave here about nine, and wait a while
there, getting home about twelve. If nothing has been
received by eleven to-night, they say there's no chance at
all.

I do so hope his life will be spared,said Liddy. "If it
is notshe'll go out of her mind too. Poor thing; her
sufferings have been dreadful; she deserves anybody's pity."

Is she altered much?said Coggan.

If you haven't seen poor mistress since Christmas, you
wouldn't know her,said Liddy. "Her eyes are so miserable
that she's not the same woman. Only two years ago she was a
romping girland now she's this!"

Laban departed as directedand at eleven o'clock that night
several of the villagers strolled along the road to
Casterbridge and awaited his arrival -- among them Oakand
nearly all the rest of Bathsheba's men. Gabriel's anxiety
was great that Boldwood might be savedeven though in his
conscience he felt that he ought to die; for there had been
qualities in the farmer which Oak loved. At lastwhen they
all were weary the tramp of a horse was heard in the
distance -


First deadas if on turf it trode
Thenclattering on the village road



In other pace than forth he yode.

We shall soon know now, one way or other.said Cogganand
they all stepped down from the bank on which they had been
standing into the roadand the rider pranced into the midst
of them.

Is that you, Laban?said Gabriel.

Yes -- 'tis come. He's not to die. 'Tis confinement
during her Majesty's pleasure.

Hurrah!said Cogganwith a swelling heart. "God's above
the devil yet!"

CHAPTER LVI

BEAUTY IN LONELINESS -- AFTER ALL

BATHSHEBA revived with the spring. The utter prostration
that had followed the low fever from which she had suffered
diminished perceptibly when all uncertainty upon every
subject had come to an end.

But she remained alone now for the greater part of her time
and stayed in the houseor at furthest went into the
garden. She shunned every oneeven Liddyand could be
brought to make no confidencesand to ask for no sympathy.

As the summer drew on she passed more of her time in the
open airand began to examine into farming matters from
sheer necessitythough she never rode out or personally
superintended as at former times. One Friday evening in
August she walked a little way along the road and entered
the village for the first time since the sombre event of the
preceding Christmas. None of the old colour had as yet come
to her cheekand its absolute paleness was heightened by
the jet black of her gowntill it appeared preternatural.
When she reached a little shop at the other end of the
placewhich stood nearly opposite to the churchyard
Bathsheba heard singing inside the churchand she knew that
the singers were practising. She crossed the roadopened
the gateand entered the graveyardthe high sills of the
church windows effectually screening her from the eyes of
those gathered within. Her stealthy walk was to the nook
wherein Troy had worked at planting flowers upon Fanny
Robin's graveand she came to the marble tombstone.

A motion of satisfaction enlivened her face as she read the
complete inscription. First came the words of Troy himself:

ERECTED BY FRANCIS TROY
IN BELOVED MEMORY OF
FANNY ROBIN
WHO DIED OCTOBER 918 --
AGED 20 YEARS.


Underneath this was now inscribed in new letters: -


IN THE SAME GRAVE LIE
THE REMAINS OF THE AFORESAID
FRANCIS TROY
WHO DIED DECEMBER 24TH18 --

AGED 26 YEARS.

Whilst she stood and read and meditated the tones of the
organ began again in the churchand she went with the same
light step round to the porch and listened. The door was
closedand the choir was learning a new hymn. Bathsheba
was stirred by emotions which latterly she had assumed to be
altogether dead within her. The little attenuated voices of
the children brought to her ear in destinct utterance the
words they sang without thought or comprehension -


Leadkindly Lightamid the encircling gloom

Lead Thou me on.

Bathsheba's feeling was always to some extent dependent upon
her whimas is the case with many other women. Something
big came into her throat and an uprising to her eyes -- and
she thought that she would allow the imminent tears to flow
if they wished. They did flow and plenteouslyand one fell
upon the stone bench beside her. Once that she had begun to
cry for she hardly knew whatshe could not leave off for
crowding thoughts she knew too well. She would have given
anything in the world to beas those children were
unconcerned at the meaning of their wordsbecause too
innocent to feel the necessity for any such expression. All
the impassioned scenes of her brief expenence seemed to
revive with added emotion at that momentand those scenes
which had been without emotion during enactment had emotion
then. Yet grief came to her rather as a luxury than as the
scourge of former times.

Owing to Bathsheba's face being buried in her hands she did
not notice a form which came quietly into the porchand on
seeing herfirst moved as if to retreatthen paused and
regarded her. Bathsheba did not raise her head for some
timeand when she looked round her face was wetand her
eyes drowned and dim. "Mr. Oak exclaimed she,
disconcerted, how long have you been here?"

A few minutes, ma'am,said Oakrespectfully.

Are you going in?said Bathsheba; and there came from
within the church as from a prompter -


I loved the garish dayandspite of fears

pride ruled my will: remember not past years.

I was,said Gabriel. "I am one of the bass singersyou
know. I have sung bass for several months.

Indeed: I wasn't aware of that. I'll leave you, then.


Which I have loved long sinceand lost awhile

sang the children.

Don't let me drive you away, mistress. I think I won't go
in to-night.

Oh no -- you don't drive me away.

Then they stood in a state of some embarrassment Bathsheba
trying to wipe her dreadfully drenched and inflamed face
without his noticing her. At length Oak saidI've not seen
you -- I mean spoken to you -- since ever so longhave I?"
But he feared to bring distressing memories backand
interrupted himself with: "Were you going into church?"

No,she said. I came to see the tombstone privately -- to
see if they had cut the inscription as I wished. Mr. Oak
you needn't mind speaking to meif you wish toon the
matter which is in both our minds at this moment."

And have they done it as you wished?said Oak.

Yes. Come and see it, if you have not already.

So together they went and read the tomb. "Eight months
ago!" Gabriel murmured when he saw the date. "It seems like
yesterday to me."

And to me as if it were years ago -- long years, and I had
been dead between. And now I am going home, Mr. Oak.

Oak walked after her. "I wanted to name a small matter to
you as soon as I could he said, with hesitation. Merrily
about businessand I think I may just mention it nowif
you'll allow me."

Oh yes, certainly.

It is that I may soon have to give up the management of your
farmMrs. Troy. The fact isI am thinking of leaving
England -- not yetyou know -- next spring."

Leaving England!she saidin surprise and genuine
disappointment. "WhyGabrielwhat are you going to do
that for?"

Well, I've thought it best,Oak stammered out.
California is the spot I've had in my mind to try.

But it is understood everywhere that you are going to take
poor Mr. Boldwood's farm on your own account.

I've had the refusal o' it 'tis true; but nothing is
settled yet, and I have reasons for giving up. I shall
finish out my year there as manager for the trustees, but no
more.

And what shall I do without you? Oh, Gabriel, I don't
think you ought to go away. You've been with me so long -through
bright times and dark times -- such old friends that
as we are -- that it seems unkind almost. I had fancied
that if you leased the other farm as master, you might still


give a helping look across at mine. And now going away!

I would have willingly.

Yet now that I am more helpless than ever you go away!

Yes, that's the ill fortune o' it,said Gabrielin a
distressed tone. "And it is because of that very
helplessness that I feel bound to go. Good afternoon
ma'am" he concludedin evident anxiety to get awayand at
once went out of the churchyard by a path she could follow
on no pretence whatever.

Bathsheba went homeher mind occupied with a new trouble
which being rather harassing than deadly was calculated to
do good by diverting her from the chronic gloom of her life.
She was set thinking a great deal about Oak and of his wish
to shun her; and there occurred to Bathsheba several
incidents of her latter intercourse with himwhichtrivial
when singly viewed amounted together to a perceptible
disinclination for her society. It broke upon her at length
as a great pain that her last old disciple was about to
forsake her and flee. He who had believed in her and argued
on her side when all the rest of the world was against her
had at last like the others become weary and neglectful of
the old causeand was leaving her to fight her battles
alone.

Three weeks went onand more evidence of his want of
interest in her was forthcoming. She noticed that instead
of entering the small parlour or office where the farm
accounts were keptand waitingor leaving a memorandum as
he had hitherto done during her seclusionOak never came at
all when she was likely to be thereonly entering at
unseasonable hours when her presence in that part of the
house was least to be expected. Whenever he wanted
directions he sent a messageor note with neither heading
nor signatureto which she was obliged to reply in the same
offhand style. Poor Bathsheba began to suffer now from the
most torturing sting of all -- a sensation that she was
despised.

The autumn wore away gloomily enough amid these melancholy
conjecturesand Christmas-day camecompleting a year of
her legal widowhoodand two years and a quarter of her life
alone. On examining her heart it appeared beyond measure
strange that the subject of which the season might have been
supposed suggestive -- the event in the hall at Boldwood's -was
not agitating her at all; but insteadan agonizing
conviction that everybody abjured her -- for what she could
not tell -- and that Oak was the ringleader of the
recusants. Coming out of church that day she looked round
in hope that Oakwhose bass voice she had heard rolling out
from the gallery overhead in a most unconcerned manner
might chance to linger in her path in the old way. There he
wasas usualcoming down the path behind her. But on
seeing Bathsheba turnhe looked asideand as soon as he
got beyond the gateand there was the barest excuse for a
divergencehe made oneand vanished.

The next morning brought the culminating stroke; she had
been expecting it long. It was a formal notice by letter
from him that he should not renew his engagement with her
for the following Lady-day.


Bathsheba actually sat and cried over this letter most
bitterly. She was aggrieved and wounded that the possession
of hopeless love from Gabrielwhich she had grown to regard
as her inalienable right for lifeshould have been
withdrawn just at his own pleasure in this way. She was
bewildered too by the prospect of having to rely on her own
resources again: it seemed to herself that she never could
again acquire energy sufficient to go to marketbarterand
sell. Since Troy's death Oak had attended all sales and
fairs for hertransacting her business at the same time
with his own. What should she do now? Her life was
becoming a desolation.

So desolate was Bathsheba this eveningthat in an absolute
hunger for pity and sympathyand miserable in that she
appeared to have outlived the only true friendship she had
ever ownedshe put on her bonnet and cloak and went down to
Oak's house just after sunsetguided on her way by the pale
primrose rays of a crescent moon a few days old.

A lively firelight shone from the windowbut nobody was
visible in the room. She tapped nervouslyand then thought
it doubtful if it were right for a single woman to call upon
a bachelor who lived alonealthough he was her managerand
she might be supposed to call on business without any real
impropriety. Gabriel opened the doorand the moon shone
upon his forehead.

Mr. Oak,said Bathshebafaintly.

Yes; I am Mr. Oak,said Gabriel. "Who have I the honour -O
how stupid of menot to know youmistress!"

I shall not be your mistress much longer, shall I Gabriel?
she saidin pathetic tones.

Well, no. I suppose -- But come in, ma'am. Oh -- and I'll
get a light,Oak repliedwith some awkwardness.

No; not on my account.

It is so seldom that I get a lady visitor that I'm afraid I
haven't proper accommodation. Will you sit down, please?
Here's a chair, and there's one, too. I am sorry that my
chairs all have wood seats, and are rather hard, but I was
thinking of getting some new ones.Oak placed two or three
for her.

They are quite easy enough for me.

So down she satand down sat hethe fire dancing in their
facesand upon the old furniture

all a-sheenen
Wi' long years o' handlen[1]


[1] W. Barnes.
that formed Oak's array of household possessionswhich sent
back a dancing reflection in reply. It was very odd to
these two personswho knew each other passing wellthat


the mere circumstance of their meeting in a new place and in
a new way should make them so awkward and constrained. In
the fieldsor at her housethere had never been any
embarrassment; but now that Oak had become the entertainer
their lives seemed to be moved back again to the days when
they were strangers.

You'll think it strange that I have come, but ----

Oh no; not at all.

But I thought -- Gabriel, I have been uneasy in the belief
that I have offended you, and that you are going away on
that account. It grieved me very much and I couldn't help
coming.

Offended me! As if you could do that, Bathsheba!

Haven't I?she askedgladly. "Butwhat are you going
away for else?"

I am not going to emigrate, you know; I wasn't aware that
you would wish me not to when I told 'ee or I shouldn't ha'
thought of doing it,he saidsimply. "I have arranged for
Little Weatherbury Farm and shall have it in my own hands at
Lady-day. You know I've had a share in it for some time.
Stillthat wouldn't prevent my attending to your business
as beforehadn't it been that things have been said about
us."

What?said Bathshebain surprise. "Things said about you
and me! What are they?"

I cannot tell you.

It would be wiser if you were to, I think. You have played
the part of mentor to me many times, and I don't see why you
should fear to do it now.

It is nothing that you have done, this time. The top and
tail o't is this -- that I am sniffing about here, and
waiting for poor Boldwood's farm, with a thought of getting
you some day.

Getting me! What does that mean?

Marrying of 'ee, in plain British. You asked me to tell,
so you mustn't blame me.

Bathsheba did not look quite so alarmed as if a cannon had
been discharged by her earwhich was what Oak had expected.
Marrying me! I didn't know it was that you meant,she
saidquietly. "Such a thing as that is too absurd -- too
soon -- to think ofby far!"

Yes; of course, it is too absurd. I don't desire any such
thing; I should think that was plain enough by this time.
Surely, surely you be the last person in the world I think
of marrying. It is too absurd, as you say.

'Too -- s-s-soon' were the words I used."

I must beg your pardon for correcting you, but you said,
'too absurd,' and so do I.


I beg your pardon too!she returnedwith tears in her
eyes. "'Too soon' was what I said. But it doesn't matter a
bit -- not at all -- but I only meant'too soon.' Indeed
I didn'tMr. Oakand you must believe me!"

Gabriel looked her long in the facebut the firelight being
faint there was not much to be seen. "Bathsheba he said,
tenderly and in surprise, and coming closer: if I only knew
one thing -- whether you would allow me to love you and win
youand marry you after all -- if I only knew that!"

But you never will know,she murmured.

Why?

Because you never ask.

Oh -- Oh!said Gabrielwith a low laugh of joyousness.
My own dear ----

You ought not to have sent me that harsh letter this
morning,she interrupted. "It shows you didn't care a bit
about meand were ready to desert me like all the rest of
them! It was very cruel of youconsidering I was the first
sweetheart that you ever hadand you were the first I ever
had; and I shall not forget it!"

Now, Bathsheba, was ever anybody so provoking he said,
laughing.You know it was purely that Ias an unmarried
mancarrying on a business for you as a very taking young
womanhad a proper hard part to play -- more particular
that people knew I had a sort of feeling for 'ee; and I
fanciedfrom the way we were mentioned togetherthat it
might injure your good name. Nobody knows the heat and fret
I have been caused by it."

And was that all?

All.

Oh, how glad I am I came!she exclaimedthankfullyas
she rose from her seat. "I have thought so much more of you
since I fancied you did not want even to see me again. But
I must be going nowor I shall be missed. Why Gabriel
she said, with a slight laugh, as they went to the door, it
seems exactly as if I had come courting you -- how
dreadful!"

And quite right too,said Oak. "I've danced at your
skittish heelsmy beautiful Bathshebafor many a long
mileand many a long day; and it is hard to begrudge me
this one visit."

He accompanied her up the hillexplaining to her the
details of his forthcoming tenure of the other farm. They
spoke very little of their mutual feeling; pretty phrases
and warm expressions being probably unnecessary between such
tried friends. Theirs was that substantial affection which
arises (if any arises at all) when the two who are thrown
together begin first by knowing the rougher sides of each
other's characterand not the best till further onthe
romance growing up in the interstices of a mass of hard
prosaic reality. This good-fellowship -- CAMARADERIE -



usually occurring through similarity of pursuitsis
unfortunately seldom superadded to love between the sexes
because men and women associatenot in their laboursbut
in their pleasures merely. Wherehoweverhappy
circumstance permits its developmentthe compounded feeling
proves itself to be the only love which is strong as death -that
love which many waters cannot quenchnor the floods
drownbeside which the passion usually called by the name
is evanescent as steam.

CHAPTER LVII

A FOGGY NIGHT AND MORNING -- CONCLUSION

THE most private, secret, plainest wedding that it is
possible to have.

Those had been Bathsheba's words to Oak one eveningsome
time after the event of the preceding chapterand he
meditated a full hour by the clock upon how to carry out her
wishes to the letter.

A licence -- O yes, it must be a licence,he said to
himself at last. "Very wellthen; firsta license."

On a dark nighta few days laterOak came with mysterious
steps from the surrogate's doorin Casterbridge. On the
way home he heard a heavy tread in front of himand
overtaking the manfound him to be Coggan. They walked
together into the village until they came to a little lane
behind the churchleading down to the cottage of Laban
Tallwho had lately been installed as clerk of the parish
and was yet in mortal terror at church on Sundays when he
heard his lone voice among certain hard words of the Psalms
whither no man ventured to follow him.

Well, good-night, Coggan,said OakI'm going down this
way.

Oh!said Coggansurprised; "what's going on to-night
thenmake so bold Mr. Oak?"

It seemed rather ungenerous not to tell Cogganunder the
circumstancesfor Coggan had been true as steel all through
the time of Gabriel's unhappiness about Bathshebaand
Gabriel saidYou can keep a secret, Coggan?

You've proved me, and you know.

Yes, I have, and I do know. Well, then, mistress and I
mean to get married to-morrow morning.

Heaven's high tower! And yet I've thought of such a thing
from time to time; true, I have. But keeping it so close!
Well, there, 'tis no consarn of of mine, and I wish 'ee joy
o' her.

Thank you, Coggan. But I assure 'ee that this great hush
is not what I wished for at all, or what either of us would
have wished if it hadn't been for certain things that would
make a gay wedding seem hardly the thing. Bathsheba has a


great wish that all the parish shall not be in church,
looking at her -- she's shylike and nervous about it, in
fact -- so I be doing this to humour her.

Ay, I see: quite right, too, I suppose I must say. And you
be now going down to the clerk.

Yes; you may as well come with me.

I am afeard your labour in keeping it close will be throwed
away,said Cogganas they walked along. "Labe Tall's old
woman will horn it all over parish in half-an-hour."

So she will, upon my life; I never thought of that,said
Oakpausing. "Yet I must tell him to-nightI supposefor
he's working so far offand leaves early."

I'll tell 'ee how we could tackle her,said Coggan. "I'll
knock and ask to speak to Laban outside the dooryou
standing in the background. Then he'll come outand you
can tell yer tale. She'll never guess what I want en for;
and I'll make up a few words about the farm-workas a
blind."

This scheme was considered feasible; and Coggan advanced
boldlyand rapped at Mrs. Tall's door. Mrs. Tall herself
opened it.

I wanted to have a word with Laban.

He's not at home, and won't be this side of eleven o'clock.
He've been forced to go over to Yalbury since shutting out
work. I shall do quite as well.

I hardly think you will. Stop a moment;and Coggan
stepped round the corner of the porch to consult Oak.

Who's t'other man, then?said Mrs. Tall.

Only a friend,said Coggan.

Say he's wanted to meet mistress near church-hatch tomorrow
morning at ten,said Oakin a whisper. "That he
must come without failand wear his best clothes."

The clothes will floor us as safe as houses!said Coggan.

It can't be helped said Oak. Tell her."

So Coggan delivered the message. "Mindhet or wetblow or
snowhe must come added Jan. 'Tis very particular
indeed. The fact is'tis to witness her sign some law-work
about taking shares wi' another farmer for a long span o'
years. Therethat's what 'tisand now I've told 'ee
Mother Tallin a way I shouldn't ha' done if I hadn't loved
'ee so hopeless well."

Coggan retired before she could ask any further; and next
they called at the vicar's in a manner which excited no
curiosity at all. Then Gabriel went homeand prepared for
the morrow.

Liddy,said Bathshebaon going to bed that nightI want


you to call me at seven o'clock to-morrow, In case I
shouldn't wake.

But you always do wake afore then, ma'am.

Yes, but I have something important to do, which I'll tell
you of when the time comes, and it's best to make sure.

Bathshebahoweverawoke voluntarily at fournor could she
by any contrivance get to sleep again. About sixbeing
quite positive that her watch had stopped during the night
she could wait no longer. She went and tapped at Liddy's
doorand after some labour awoke her.

But I thought it was I who had to call you?said the
bewildered Liddy. "And it isn't six yet."

Indeed it is; how can you tell such a storyLiddy? I know
it must be ever so much past seven. Come to my room as soon
as you can; I want you to give my hair a good brushing."

When Liddy came to Bathsheba's room her mistress was already
waiting. Liddy could not understand this extraordinary
promptness. "Whatever IS going onma'am?" she said.

Well, I'll tell you,said Bathshebawith a mischievous
smile in her bright eyes. "Farmer Oak is coming here to
dine with me to-day!"

Farmer Oak -- and nobody else? -- you two alone?

Yes.

But is it safe, ma'am, after what's been said?asked her
companiondubiously. "A woman's good name is such a
perishable article that ----"

Bathsheba laughed with a flushed cheekand whispered in
Liddy's earalthough there was nobody present. Then Liddy
stared and exclaimedSouls alive, what news! It makes my
heart go quite bumpity-bump

It makes mine rather furious, too,said Bathsheba.
However, there's no getting out of it now!

It was a damp disagreeable morning. Neverthelessat twenty
minutes to ten o'clockOak came out of his houseand

Went up the hill side

With that sort of stride

A man puts out when walking in search of a bride

and knocked Bathsheba's door. Ten minutes later a large and
a smaller umbrella might have been seen moving from the same
doorand through the mist along the road to the church.
The distance was not more than a quarter of a mileand
these two sensible persons deemed it unnecessary to drive.
An observer must have been very close indeed to discover
that the forms under the umbrellas were those of Oak and
Bathshebaarm-in-arm for the first time in their livesOak
in a greatcoat extending to his kneesand Bathsheba in a
cloak that reached her clogs. Yetthough so plainly


dressed there was a certain rejuvenated appearance about
her: -


As though a rose should shut and be a bud again.

Repose had again incarnadined her cheeks; and havingat
Gabriel's requestarranged her hair this morning as she had
worn it years ago on Norcombe Hillshe seemed in his eyes
remarkably like a girl of that fascinating dreamwhich
considering that she was now only three or four-and-twenty
was perhaps not very wonderful. In the church were Tall
Liddyand the parsonand in a remarkably short space of
time the deed was done.

The two sat down very quietly to tea in Bathsheba's parlour
in the evening of the same dayfor it had been arranged
that Farmer Oak should go there to livesince he had as yet
neither moneyhousenor furniture worthy of the name
though he was on a sure way towards themwhilst Bathsheba
wascomparativelyin a plethora of all three.

Just as Bathsheba was pouring out a cup of teatheir ears
were greeted by the firing of a cannonfollowed by what
seemed like a tremendous blowing of trumpetsin the front
of the house.

There!said OaklaughingI knew those fellows were up
to something, by the look on their faces

Oak took up the light and went into the porchfollowed by
Bathsheba with a shawl over her head. The rays fell upon a
group of male figures gathered upon the gravel in front
whowhen they saw the newly-married couple in the porch
set up a loud "Hurrah!" and at the same moment bang again
went the cannon in the backgroundfollowed by a hideous
clang of music from a drumtambourineclarionetserpent
hautboytenor-violand double-bass -- the only remaining
relics of the true and original Weatherbury band -venerable
worm-eaten instrumentswhich had celebrated in
their own persons the victories of Marlhoroughunder the
fingers of the forefathers of those who played them now.
The performers came forwardand marched up to the front.

Those bright boys, Mark Clark and Jan, are at the bottom of
all this,said Oak. "Come insoulsand have something to
eat and drink wi' me and my wife."

Not to-night,said Mr. Clarkwith evident self-denial.
Thank ye all the same; but we'll call at a more seemly
time. However, we couldn't think of letting the day pass
without a note of admiration of some sort. If ye could send
a drop of som'at down to Warren's, why so it is. Here's
long life and happiness to neighbour Oak and his comely
bride!

Thank ye; thank ye all,said Gabriel. "A bit and a drop
shall be sent to Warren's for ye at once. I had a thought
that we might very likely get a salute of some sort from our
old friendsand I was saying so to my wife but now."

Faith,said Cogganin a critical toneturning to his
companionsthe man hev learnt to say 'my wife' in a


wonderful naterel way, considering how very youthful he is
in wedlock as yet -- hey, neighbours all?

I never heerd a skilful old married feller of twenty years'
standing pipe 'my wife' in a more used note than 'a did,
said Jacob Smallbury. "It might have been a little more
true to nater if't had been spoke a little chillierbut
that wasn't to be expected just now."

That improvement will come wi' time,said Jantwirling
his eye.

Then Oak laughedand Bathsheba smiled (for she never
laughed readily now)and their friends turned to go.

Yes; I suppose that's the size o't,said Joseph Poorgrass
with a cheerful sigh as they moved away; "and I wish him joy
o' her; though I were once or twice upon saying to-day with
holy Hoseain my scripture mannerwhich is my second
nature. 'Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone.' But
since 'tis as 'tis whyit might have been worseand I feel
my thanks accordingly."