Saturday, October 13, 2007



by Thomas Hardy, 1874
From the Penguin edition, 1978
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 congegation
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 green-faced 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, and
drawing up the watch by its chain, like a bucket from a
But some thoughtfull 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 growth,
for 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 again, in the character of
prejudice, by the influence of a wife and family. In
short, he was twenty-eight, and 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 hedge, Oak saw
coming down the incline before him an ornamental
spring waggon, painted yellow and gaily marked,
drawn by two horses, a waggoner walking alongside
bearing a whip perpendicularly. The waggon was
laden with household goods and window plants, and
on the apex of the whole sat a woman, "young" and
attractive. Gabriel had not beheld the sight for more
than half a minute, when the vehicle was brought to a
standstill just beneath his eyes.
"The tailboard of the waggon is gone, Miss." said the
"Then I heard it fall." said the girl, in a soft, though
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 still, and 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 settle, and ornamented in front by
pots of geraniums, myrtles, and cactuses, together with
a caged canary -- all probably from the windows of the
house just vacated. There was also a cat in a willow
basket, from 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 bird, nor at the cat; it was at an oblong
package tied in paper, and 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 package, her thoughts seeming to run upon what
was inside it. At length she drew the article into her
lap, and untied the paper covering; a small swing
looking-glass was disclosed, in which she proceeded to
survey herself attentively. She parted her lips and
It was a fine morning, and the sun lighted up to a
scarlet glow the crimson jacket she wore, and painted
a soft lustre upon her bright face and dark hair. The
myrtles, geraniums, and cactuses packed around her
were fresh and green, and at such a leafless season they
invested the whole concern of horses, waggon, furniture,
and girl with a peculiar vernal charm. What possessed
her to indulge in such a performance in the sight of the
sparrows, blackbirds, and unperceived farmer who were
alone its spectators, -- whether the smile began as a
factitious one, to test her capacity in that art, -- nobody
knows; it ended certainly in a real smile. She blushed
at herself, and seeing her reflection blush, blushed the
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 sunlight, which had
clothed it in the freshness of an originality. A
cynical inference was irresistible by Gabriel Oak as he
regarded the scene, generous though he fain would have
been. There was no necessity whatever for her looking
in the glass. She did not adjust her hat, or pat her
hair, or press a dimple into shape, or 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 kind, her 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. Still, this was
but conjecture, and 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 paper, and the whole again into its
When the waggon had passed on, Gabriel withdrew
from his point of espial, and descending into the road,
followed the vehicle to the turnpike-gate some way
beyond the bottom of the hill, where the object of his
contemplation now halted for the payment of toll. About
twenty steps still remained between him and the gate,
when he heard a dispute. lt 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-keeper, closing the gate.
Oak looked from one to the other of the disputants,
and 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 wages, and, as such, a 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 words, and 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 Iscariot, as represented
in a window of the church he attended, that not a single
lineament could be selected and called worthy either of
distinction or notoriety. The redjacketed and darkhaired
maiden seemed to think so too, for she carelessly
glanced over him, and told her man to drive on. She
might have looked her thanks to Gabriel on a minute
scale, but she did not speak them; more probably she
felt none, for in gaining her a passage he had lost her
her point, and 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.
"True, farmer."
"And the greatest of them is -- well, what it is
"Beating people down? ay, 'tis so."
"O no."
"What, then?"
Gabriel, perhaps a little piqued by the comely
traveller's indifference, glanced back to where he had
witnessed her performance over the hedge, and said,
IT was nearly midnight on the eve of St. Thomas's, the
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 smoothly-outlined protuberances
of the globe which may remain undisturbed on
some great day of confusion, when far grander heights
and dizzy granite precipices topple down.
The hill was covered on its northern side by an
ancient and decaying plantation of beeches, whose
upper verge formed a line over the crest, fringing its
arched curve against the sky, like a mane. To-night
these trees sheltered the southern slope from the keenest
blasts, which smote the wood and floundered through
it with a sound as of grumbling, or 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 few, and
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 hill, and the
vague still horizon that its summit indistinctly commanded,
was a mysterious sheet of fathomless shade
-- the sounds from which suggested that what it concealed
bore some reduced resemblance to features here.
The thin grasses, more or less coating the hill, were
touched by the wind in breezes of differing powers, and
almost of differing natures -- one rubbing the blades
heavily, another raking them piercingly, another brushing
them like a soft broom. The instinctive act of humankind
was to stand and listen, and learn how the trees
to each other in the regular antiphonies of a cathedral
choir; how hedges and other shapes to leeward them
caught the note, lowering it to the tenderest sob; and
how the hurrying gust then plunged into the south, to
be heard no more.
The sky was clear -- remarkably clear -- and the
twinkling of all the stars seemed to be but throbs of
one body, timed by a common pulse. The North Star
was directly in the wind's eye, and since evening the
Bear had swung round it outwardly to the east, till 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
glitter, the star called Capella was yellow, Aldebaran and
Betelgueux shone with a fiery red.
To persons standing alone on a hill during a clear
midnight such as this, the roll of the world eastward is
almost a palpable movement. The sensation may be
caused by the panoramic glide of the stars past earthly
objects, which is perceptible in a few minutes of stillness,
or by the better outlook upon space that a hill
affords, or by the wind, or by the solitude; but whatever
be its origin, the impression of riding along is vivid and
abiding. The poetry of motion is a phrase much in
use, and to enjoy the epic form of that gratification it
is necessary to stand on a hill at a small hour of the
night, and, having first expanded with a sense of difference
from the mass of civilised mankind, who are
dreamwrapt and disregardful of all such proceedings at
this time, long and quietly watch your stately progress
through the stars. After such a nocturnal reconnoitre
it is hard to get back to earth, and 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 wind,
and 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 way, and 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 Ararat, allowing the traditionary outlines
and general form of the Ark which are followed by toymakers
-- and by these means are established in men's
imaginations among their firmest, because 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 on, to
shelter the shepherd in his- enforced nightly attendance.
It was only latterly that people had begun to call
Gabriel "Farmer" Oak. 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 portion,
and stock it with two hundred sheep. Previously he
had been a bailiff for a short time, and earlier still a
shepherd only, having from his childhood assisted his
father in tending the flocks of large proprietors, till old
Gabriel sank to rest.
This venture, unaided and alone, into the paths of
farming as master and not as man, with an advance of
sheep not yet paid for, was a critical juncture with
Gabriel Oak, and he recognised his position clearly.
The first movement in his new progress was the lambing
of his ewes, and sheep having been his speciality from
his "youth, he 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
hut, but the flute-playing ceased. A rectangular space
of light appeared in the side of the hut, and in the
opening the outline of Farmer Oak's figure. He carried
a lantern in his hand, and closing the door behind him,
came forward and busied himself about this nook of the
field for nearly twenty minutes, the lantern light appearing
and disappearing here and there, and brightening
him or darkening him as he stood before or behind it.
Oak's motions, though they had a quiet-energy, were
slow, and their deliberateness accorded well with his
occupation. Fitness being the basis of beauty, nobody
could-have denied that his steady swings and turns"
in and- about the flock had elements of grace, Yet,
although 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 born, his special power,
morally, physically, and mentally, was static, owing
little or nothing to momentum as a rule.
A close examination of the ground hereabout, even
by the wan starlight only, revealed 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 points,
amid and under which the whitish forms of his meek
ewes moved and rustled. The ring of the sheep-bell,
which had been silent during his absence, recommenced,
in tones that had more mellowness than clearness, owing
to an increasing growth of surrounding wool. This
continued till Oak withdrew again from the flock. He
-- returned to the hut, bringing in his arms a new-born
lamb, consisting of four legs large enough for a fullgrown
sheep, united by a seemingly inconsiderable membrane
about half the substance of the legs collectively,
which constituted the animal's entire body just at present.
The little speck of life he placed on a wisp of hay
before the small stove, where a can of milk was simmering.
Oak extinguished the lantern by blowing into it
and then pinching the snuff, the cot being lighted
by a candle suspended by a twisted wire. A rather
hard couch, formed of a few corn sacks thrown carelessly
down, covered half the floor of this little habitation, and
here the young man stretched himself along, loosened
his woollen cravat, and 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 hut, as it now presented itself, was
cosy and alluring, and the scarlet handful of fire in
addition to the candle, reflecting its own genial colour
upon whatever it could reach, flung 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 bovine surgery and physic; spirits of
wine, turpentine, tar, magnesia, ginger, and castor-oil
being the chief. On a triangular shelf across the corner
stood bread, bacon, cheese, and a cup for ale or cider,
which 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 holes,
like the lights of a ship's cabin, with wood slides-
The lamb, revived by the warmth began to bleat"
instant meaning, as expected sounds will. Passing
from the profoundest sleep to the most alert wakefulness
with the same ease that had accompanied the reverse
operation, he looked at his watch, found that the hourhand
had shifted again, put on his hat, took the lamb
in his arms, and carried it into the darkness. After
placing the little creature with its mother, he stood and
carefully examined the sky, to ascertain the time of
night from the altitudes of the stars.
The Dog-star and Aldebaran, pointing to the restless
Pleiades, were half-way up the Southern sky, and between
them hung Orion, which gorgeous constellation never
burnt more vividly than now, as it soared forth above
the rim of the landscape. Castor and Pollux will
the north-west; far away through the plantation Vega
and 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 led, he stood
still after looking at the sky as a useful instrument, and
regarded it in an appreciative spirit, as a work of art
superlatively beautiful. For a moment he seemed
impressed with the speaking loneliness of the scene, or
rather with the complete abstraction from all its compass
of the sights and sounds of man. Human shapes,interferences,
troubles, and joys were all as if they were not, and 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 this, with eyes stretched afar, Oak 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 light, almost 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 intuition, sensation, memory,
analogy, testimony, probability, induction -- 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 here,
the site being a cutting into the slope of the hill, so 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 spots of light, a combination of which made
the radiance that had attracted him. Oak stepped up behind,
where,leaning down upon the roof and putting his eye close
to a hole, he 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 looks, her position being almost beneath his eye, so
that he saw her in a bird's-eye view, as Milton's Satan first saw
Paradise. She wore no bonnet or het, but had enveloped herself
in a large cloak, which 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 hips, and 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 woman, whose eyelids were apparently inclined
to fall together on the smallest provocation of silence,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 breed, and was
encased in a tight warm hide of rich Indian red, as absolutely
uniform from eyes to tail as if the animal had been dipped in
a dye of that colour, her long back being mathematically level.
The other was spotted,grey and white. Beside her Oak now
noticed a little calf about a day old, looking idiotically at
the two women, which showed that it had not long been
accustomed to the phenomenon of eyesight, and often turning
to the lantern, which it apparently mistook for the moon.
inherited 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
"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."
Oak, upon hearing these remarks, became more
curious to observe her features, but this prospect being
denied him by the hooding effect of the cloak, and 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 warts
within us whatever our eyes bring in. Had Gabriel
been able from the first to get a distinct view of her -
countenance, his 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 him, his position
moreover affording the widest scope for his fancy, he
painted her a beauty.
By one of those whimsical coincidences in which
Nature, like a busy mother, seems to spare a moment
from her unremitting labours to turn and make her
children smile, the girl now dropped the cloak, and
forth tumbled ropes of black hair over a red jacket.
Oak knew her instantly as the heroine of the yellow
waggon, myrtles, and looking-glass: prosily, as the
woman who owed him twopence.
They placed the calf beside its mother again, took
up the lantern, and went out, the light sinking down
the hill till it was no more than a nebula. Gabriel
Oak returned to his flock.
THE sluggish day began to break. Even its position
terrestrially is one of the elements of a new interest,
and for no particular reason save that the incident of
the night had occurred there, Oak went again into
the plantation. Lingering and musing here, he heard
the steps of a horse at the foot of the hill, and soon
there appeared in view an auburn pony with a girl on
its back, ascending by the path leading past the cattleshed.
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 himself, and peeped through
the loophole in the direction of the riders 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 path, after passing the cowshed, bisected
the plantation. It was not a bridle-path -- merely a
pedestrian's track, and the boughs spread horizontally
at a height not greater than seven feet above the ground,
which made it impossible to ride erect beneath them.
The girl, who wore no riding-habit, looked around for
a moment, as if to assure herself that all humanity was
out of view, then dexterously dropped backwards flat
upon the pony's back, her head over its tail, her feet
against its shoulders, and 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 doings, and ambled
along unconcerned. Thus she passed under the level boughs.
The performer seemed quite at home anywhere
between a horse's head and its tail, and the necessity
for this abnormal attitude having ceased with the
passage of the plantation, she began to adopt another,
even more obviously convenient than the first. She had
no side-saddle, and 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 sapling, and satisfying her,
self that nobody was in sight, she seated herself in the
manner demanded by the saddle, though hardly expected
of the woman, and trotted off in the direction of Tewnell
Oak was amused, perhaps a little astonished, and
hanging up the hat in his hut, went again among his
ewes. An hour passed, the girl returned, properly
seated now, with a bag of bran in front of her. On
nearing the cattle-shed she was met by a boy bringing
a milking-pail, who 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 shirts alternating with loud shirts came
in regular succession from within the shed, the obvious
sounds of a person milking a cow. Gabriel took the
lost hat in his hand, and waited beside the path she
would follow in leaving the hill.
She came, the pail in one hand, hanging against her
knee. The left arm was extended as a balance, enough
of it being shown bare to make Oak wish that the event
ha happened in the summer, when the whole would
have been revealed. There was a bright air and manner
about her now, by 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 be, upon the whole, true.
Like exceptional emphasis in the tone of a genius, that
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 one, and the
hedge diminutive; hence, making 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 beauty, that in Englishwoman a
classically-formed face is seldom found to be united
with a figure of the same pattern, the 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 milkmaid,
let it be said that here criticism checked itself as out
of place, and looked at her proportions with a long
consciousness of pleasure. From the contours of her
figure in its upper part, she 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 natural, and almost certain. The selfconsciousness
shown would have been vanity if a little
more pronounced, dignity 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 hand, as if
Gabriel had been irritating its pink surface by actual
touch, and 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 blushed, the maid not
at all.
"I found a hat." said Oak.
"It is mine." said she, and, from 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 inquired, casting her eyes round,
and swinging back her hair, which 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 natives, by
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 inquired, a misgiving bringing every
muscle of her lineaments and frame to a standstill.
"Here-going through the plantation, and all down
the hill." said Farmer Oak, with an aspect excessively
knowing with regard to some matter in his mind, as he
gazed at a remote point in the direction named, and 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 palpitation, and 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 Blush, through all varieties of the Provence
down to the Crimson Tuscany, the countenance of Oak's
acquaintance quickly graduated; whereupon he, in considerateness,
turned away his head.
The sympathetic man still looked the other way, and
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 breeze, and
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 one, but 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 help, but by letting her know that he had
seen it. For, as without law there is no sin, without
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 might, however, have ended in
a slow forgetting, but for an incident which occurred at
the end of the same week. One afternoon it began to
freeze, and the frost increased with evening, which 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 cold, even
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 near, Oak kept his usual
watch upon the cowshed. At last he felt cold, and
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 door,
and 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 windward, he turned to
open the other; on second -- thoughts the farmer considered
that he would first sit down leaving both
closed for a minute or two, till the temperature of the
hut was a little raised. He sat down.
His head began to ache in an unwonted manner, and,
fancying himself weary by reason of the broken rests of
the preceding nights, Oak decided to get up, open the
slide, and then allow himself to fall asleep. He fell
asleep, however, without having performed the necessary
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 about, hands 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 lap, his face and neck
were disagreeably wet, and her fingers were unbuttoning
his collar.
"Whatever is the matter?" said Oak, vacantly.
She seemed to experience mirth, but 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 it, and sit under
thatched hurdles as they did in old times, curl up
to sleep in a lock of straw! It played me nearly the
same trick the other day!" Gabriel, by way of emphasis,
brought 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
should I think, have considered, and not have been so
foolish as to leave the slides closed."
"Yes I suppose I should." said Oak, absently. He
was endeavouring to catch and appreciate the sensation
of being thus with her, his head upon her dress, before
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
She made him sit up, and then Oak began wiping
his face and shaking himself like a Samson. "How
can I thank 'ee?" he said at last, gratefully, some of the
natural rusty red having returned to his face. "Oh, never mind that."
said the girl, smiling, and
allowing her smile to hold good for Gabriel's next
remark, whatever 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 said, in a
low voice, which was rather meant to travel back to
himself than to her.
"O 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 hesitated, somewhat disconcerted at Oak's oldfashioned
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 small-hearted person.
"I am sorry." he said, the instant after.
"What for?"
"You may have it again if you like; there it is."
She gave him her hand again.
Oak held it longer this time -- indeed, curiously long.
"How soft it is -- being winter time, too -- not chapped
or rough or anything!" he said.
"There -- that's long enough." said she, though 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 Gabriel,
simply; "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 said, teasingly; and
THE only superiority in women that is tolerable to the
rival sex is, as a rule, that 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.
Love, being an extremely exacting usurer (a sense of
exorbitant profit, spiritually, by an exchange of hearts,
being at the bottom of pure passions, as that of exorbitant
profit, bodily or materially, is 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
presence, that the farmer was quite struck with the
resemblance, felt it lowering, and would not look at the
dog. However, he continued to watch through the
hedge for her regular coming, and thus his sentiments
towards her were deepened without any corresponding
effect being produced upon herself. Oak had nothing
finished and ready to say as yet, and 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 Everdene, and that the cow would go
dry in about seven days. He dreaded the eight day.
At last the eighth day came. The cow had ceased
to give milk for that year, and 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 `Bathsheba' as a
private enjoyment instead of whistling; turned over his
taste to black hair, though he had sworn by brown ever
since he was a boy, isolated himself till the space he
filled in a possible strength in an actual weakness. Marriage
transforms a distraction into a support, the power of
which should be, and happily often is, in direct proportion
to the degree of imbecility it supplants. Oak
began now to see light in this direction, and said to
himself, "I'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 ewe,
mother of a living lamb. On a day which had a
summer face and a winter constitution-a fine January
morning, when there was just enough blue sky visible to
make cheerfully-disposed people wish for more, and an
occasional gleam of silvery sunshine, Oak put the lamb
into a respectable Sunday basket, and stalked across the
fields to the house of Mrs. Hurst, the aunt -- George,
the dog walking behind, with a countenance of great
concern at the serious turn pastoral affairs seemed to be
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
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 whiting, put new lacing straps to his
boots, looked to the brass eyelet-holes, went to the
inmost heart of the plantation for a new walking-stick,
and trimmed it vigorously on his way back; took a new
handkerchief from the bottom of his clothes-box, put
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 either, and used all the
hair-oil he possessed upon his usually dry, sandy, and
inextricably curly hair, till he had deepened it to a
splendidly novel colour, between that of guano and
Roman cement, making it stick to his head like mace
round a nutmeg, or 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 one, for, as the rather untoward commencement
of Oak's overtures, just as he arrived by the garden
gate, he saw a cat inside, going into various arched shapes
and fiendish convulsions at the sight of his dog George.
The dog took no notice , for he had arrived at an age
at which all superfluous barking was cynically avoided
as a waste of breath -- in fact he never barked even
at the sheep except to order, when it was done with
an absolutely neutral countenance, as a sort of Commination-
service, which, though offensive, had 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 voice, "but
George was walking on behind me with a temper as
mild as milk."
Almost before he had ceased speaking, Oak was
seized with a misgiving as to whose ear was the recipient
of his answer. Nobody appeared, and he heard the
person retreat among the bushes.
Gabriel meditated, and 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 better,
any 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 Somebody,
without giving a name, is not to be taken as
an example of the ill-breeding of the rural world: it
springs from a refined modesty, of which townspeople,
with their cards and announcements, have no notion
Bathsheba was out. The voice had evidently been
"Will you come in, Mr. Oak?"
"Oh, thank 'ee, said Gabriel, following 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. Hurst, musingly; " though
she's only a visitor here. If you will wait a minute,
Bathsheba will be in."
"Yes, I will wait." said Gabriel, sitting down. "The
lamb isn't really the business I came about, Mrs. Hurst.
In short, I was going to ask her if she'd like to be
"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. Hurst, poking the fire
superfluously.... "Yes -- bless you, ever so many young
men. You see, Farmer Oak, she's so good-looking, and
an excellent scholar besides -- she was going to be a
governess once, you know, only she was too wild. Not
that her young men ever come here -- but, Lord, in the
nature of women, she must have a dozen!"
"That's unfortunate." said Farmer Oak, contemplating
a crack in the stone floor with sorrow. "I'm only an
every-day sort of man, and my only chance was in being
the first comer... , Well, there's no use in my waiting,
for that was all I came about: so I'll take myself off
home-along, Mrs. Hurst."
When Gabriel had gone about two hundred yards along the
down, he heard a "hoi-hoi!" uttered behind
him, in a piping note of more treble quality than that
in which the exclamation usually embodies itself when
shouted across a field. He looked round, and 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 deep, not, as it appeared, from emotion,
but from running.
"Farmer Oak -- I -- " she said, pausing 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 Gabriel, pending
her further speech.
"Yes-I know that!" she said panting like a robin,
her face red and moist from her exertions, like a peony
petal before the sun dries off the dew. "I didn't know
you had come to ask to have me, or 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
"-- 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 one, and I thought
that, as times go with women, it 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 smiles, and
blushing with gladness. He held out his hand to take
hers, which, when she had eased her side by pressing
it there, was prettily extended upon her bosom to still
her loud-beating heart. Directly he seized it she put
it behind her, so that it slipped through his fingers like
an eel. "
"I have a nice snug little farm." said Gabriel, with
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."
e continued: " When we be married, I 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 bush, now laden with red
berries. Seeing his advance take the form of an attitude
threatening a possible enclosure, if not compression, of
her person, she edged off round the bush.
"Why, Farmer Oak." she said, over the top, looking
at him with rounded eyes, "I never said I was going to
marry you."
"Well -- that is a tale!" said Oak, with dismay." To
run after anybody like this, and 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 sweetheart, instead of my having a
dozen, as my aunt said; I hate to be thought men's
property in that way, though possibly I shall be had
some day. Why, if 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 impulsively,
and Oak added with a more appreciative sense
of all the circumstances -- "Well, I 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 Gabriel, freshening again; "think a
minute or two. I'll wait a while, Miss Everdene. Will
you marry me? Do, Bathsheba. I love you far more
than common!"
"I'll try to think." she observed, rather 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 distance, away 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 as 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-pound" gigs for
market -- and nice flowers, and 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
"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 fell, and she was silent awhile.
He regarded the red berries between them over and
over again, to such an extent, that 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
"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 -- -- --
"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 that, being like the sigh of a pine plantation,
it was rather noticeable as a disturbance of the atmosphere.
"Why won't you have me?" he appealed,
creeping round the holly to reach her side.
"I cannot." she said, retreating.
"But why?" he persisted, standing still at last in
despair of ever reaching her, and facing over the
"Because I don't love you."
"Yes, but -- -- "
She contracted a yawn to an inoffensive smallness,
so 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."
"O Mr. Oak -- that's very fine! You'd get to despise me."
"Never." said Mr Oak, so earnestly that he seemed
to be coming, by the force of his words, straight
through the bush and into her arms. "I shall do one
thing in this life -- one thing certain -- that is, love you,
and long for you, and keep wanting you till I die." His
voice had a genuine pathos now, and his large brown
hands perceptibly trembled.
"It seems dreadfully wrong not to have you when
you feel so much!" she said with a little distress, and
looking hopelessly around for some means of escape
from her moral dilemma. "H(ow 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 do, Mr Oak. I want
somebody to tame me; I am too independent; and
you would never be able to, I know."
Oak cast his eyes down the field in a way implying
that it was useless to attempt argument.
"Mr. Oak." she said, with luminous distinctness and
common sense, " you 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
"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 humility,
and a superfluous moiety of honesty. Bathsheba was
decidedly disconcerted,
"Well, then, why did you come and disturb me?"
she said, almost angrily, if not quite, an enlarging red
spot rising in each cheek.
"I can't do what I think would be -- would be -- -- "
"No: wise."
"You have made an admission now, Mr. Oak." she
exclaimed, with even more hauteur, and 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 of, you
make your colours come up your face, and get crabbed
with me. That about your not being good enough for
me is nonsense. You speak like a lady -- all the parish
notice it, and your uncle at Weatherbury is, I have
heerd, a large farmer -- much larger than ever I shall
be. May I call in the evening, or will you walk along
with me o' Sundays? I don't want you to make-up
your mind at once, if 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,"
he said, with a laugh.
No man likes to see his emotions the sport of a
merry-go-round 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."
THE news which one day reached Gabriel, that Bathsheba
Everdene had left the neighbourhood, had 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 regula
path for getting out of love as there is for getting in.
Some people look upon marriage as a short cut that way,
but it has been known to fail. Separation, which was
the means that chance offered to Gabriel Oak by
Bathsheba's disappearance though effectual with people
of certain humours is apt to idealise the removed object
with others -- notably those whose affection, placid and
regular as it may be flows 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 suit, and all that Oak learnt
of Bathsheba's movements was done indirectly. It appeared
that she had gone to a place called Weatherbury,
more than twenty miles off, but in what capacity --
whether as a visitor, or permanently, he could not
Gabriel had two dogs. George, the elder, exhibited
an ebony-tipped nose, surrounded by a narrow margin
of pink flesh, and a coat marked in random splotches
approximating in colour to white and slaty grey; but the
grey, after years of sun and rain, had been scorched and
washed out of the more prominent locks, leaving them
of a reddish-brown, as if the blue component of the grey
had faded, like the indigo from the same kind of colour in
Turner's pictures. In substance it had originally been
hair, but 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 temper, and 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 -- -- ye, come in!" that he knew to a hair's
breadth the rate of trotting back from the ewes' tails
that each call involved, if a staggerer with the sheep
crook was to be escaped. Though old, he was clever
and trustworthy still.
The young dog, George's son, might possibly have
been the image of his mother, for there was not much
resemblance between him and George. He was learning
the sheep-keeping business, so as to follow on at
the flock when the other should die, but 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 no,
name in particular, and answered with perfect readiness
to any pleasant interjection), that if sent behind the
flock to help them on, he 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 step by the example of old George.
Thus much for the dogs. On the further side of
Norcombe Hill was a chalk-pit, from which chalk had
been drawn for generations, and spread over adjacent
farms. Two hedges converged upon it in the form of
a V, but without quite meeting. The narrow opening
left, which was immediately over the brow of the pit,
was protected by a rough railing.
One night, when Farmer Oak had returned to, his
house, believing there would be no further necessity for
his attendance on the down, he 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 found, either in the house, lane, or
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 them, except when other food-ran
finished his meal, he went indoors to the luxury of a bed,
which latterly he had only enjoyed on Sundays.
It was a still, moist night. Just before dawn he was
assisted in waking by the abnormal reverberation of
familiar music. To the shepherd, the note of the sheep"
chronic sound that only makes itself noticed by ceasing
ever distant, that all is well in the fold. In the solemn
This exceptional ringing may be caused in two ways --
by the rapid feeding of the sheep bearing the bell, as
when the flock breaks into new pasture, which gives it
an intermittent rapidity, or by the sheep starting off in
a run, when 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
He jumped out of bed, dressed, tore down the lane
through a foggy dawn, and ascended the hill. The
forward ewes were kept apart from those among which
the fall of lambs would be later, there 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 lambs, enclosed at the other end
as he had left them, but the rest, forming the bulk of
the flock, were 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 it, and in the gap were the
footprints of the sheep. Rather surprised to find
them break fence at this season, yet putting it down
instantly to their great fondness for ivy in winter-time,
of which a great deal grew in the plantation, he 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 summit,
where the ends of the two converging hedges of which
we have spoken were stopped short by meeting the brow
of the chalk-pit, he saw the younger dog standing against
the sky -- dark and motionless as Napoleon at St.
A horrible conviction darted through Oak. With
a sensation of bodily faintness he advanced: at one
point the rails were broken through, and there he saw
the footprints of his ewes. The dog came up, licked
his hand, and 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 carcasses,
representing in their condition just now at least two
hundred more.
Oak was an intensely humane man: indeed, his
humanity often tore in pieces any politic intentions of
his which bordered on strategy, and 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
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 energies, patience, and industry had
been so severely taxed during the years of his life between
eighteen and eight-and-twenty, to reach his present stage
of progress that no more seemed to be left in him. He
Stupors, however, do not last for ever, and 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 head, and wondering what he could
do listlessly surveyed the scene. By the outer margin
of the Pit was an oval pond, and 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 eye, and as the world awoke a breeze blew,
shaking and elongating the reflection of the moon
without breaking it, and 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 dog, still under the impression that since he was
kept for running after sheep, the more he ran after
them the better, had at the end of his meal off the
dead lamb, which may have given him additional energy
and spirits, collected all the ewes into a corner, driven
the timid creatures through the hedge, across the upper
field, and by main force of worrying had given them
momentum enough to break down a portion of the
rotten railing, and so hurled them over the edge.
George's son had done his work so thoroughly that
he was considered too good a workman to live, and was,
in 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 conclusion,
and 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 foundthat
the value of stock, plant, and implements which
were really his own would be about sufficient to pay his
debts, leaving himself a free man with the clothes he
stood up in, and nothing more.
TWO months passed away. We are brought on to a
day in February, on 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 gravitation, and pleasure
nothing better than a renunciation of the same among
these, carters 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
In the crowd was an athletic young fellow of somewhat
superior appearance to the rest -- in fact, his
superiority was marked enough to lead several ruddy
peasants standing by to speak to him inquiringly, as to
a farmer, and 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 meditative,
and 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 which, though it often makes a villain of
a man, is the basis of his sublimity when it does not.
And thus the abasement had been exaltation, and the
loss gain.
In the morning a regiment of cavalry had left the
town, and 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 hired, Gabriel
almost wished that he had joined them, and gone off to
serve his country. Weary of standing in the marketplace,
and not much minding the kind of work he
turned his hand to, he decided to offer himself in some
other capacity than that of bailiff.
All the farmers seemed to be wanting shepherds.
Sheep-tending was Gabriel's speciality. Turning down
an obscure street and entering an obscurer lane, he went
up to a smith's shop.
"How long would it take you to make a shepherd's
"Twenty minutes."
"How much?"
"Two shillings."
He sat on a bench and the crook was made, a stem
being given him into the bargain.
He then went to a ready-made clothes' shop, the
owner of which had a large rural connection. As the
crook had absorbed most of Gabriel's money, he
attempted, and carried out, an exchange of his overcoat
for a shepherd's regulation smock-frock.
This transaction having been completed, he again
hurried off to the centre of the town, and stood on the
kerb of the pavement, as a shepherd, crook in hand.
Now that Oak had turned himself into a shepherd, it
seemed that bailifs were most in demand. However, two
or three farmers noticed him and drew near. Dialogues
followed, more or lessin the subjoined for: --
"Where do you come from?"
"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. Gabriel, like his dog, was
too good to be trustworthy,. and he never made advance
beyond this point.
It is safer to accept any chance that offers itself, and
extemporize a procedure to fit it, than to get a good
shepherd, but 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 hand, which
had lain for some time idle in his smock-frock pocket,
touched 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 spirit, and in half an hour had
earned in pence what was a small fortune to a destitute
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 time, but the place had enough interest attaching
to it to lead Oak to choose Shottsford fair as his next
field of inquiry, because it lay in the Weatherbury
quarter. Moreover, the Weatherbury folk were by no
means uninteresting intrinsically. If report spoke truly
they were as hardy, merry, thriving, wicked a set as
any in the whole county. Oak resolved to sleep at
Weatherbury -- that -- night on his way to Shottsford,
and struck out at once -- into the -- high road which had
been recommended as the direct route to the village in
The road stretched through water-meadows traversed
by little brooks, whose quivering surfaces were braided
along their centres, and folded into creases at the sides;
or, where the flow was more rapid, the stream was pied
with spots of white froth, which rode on in undisturbed
serenity. On the higher levels the dead and dry carcasses
of leaves tapped the ground as they bowled along helterskelter
upon the shoulders of the wind, and little birds
in the hedges were rustling their feathers and tucking
themselves in comfortably for the night, retaining their
places if Oak kept moving, but flying away if he
stopped to look at them. He passed by Yalbury-Wood
where the game-birds were rising to their roosts, and
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 waggon, drawn up under a great
over-hanging tree by the roadside.
On coming close, he found there were no horses
attached to it, the spot being apparently quite deserted.
The waggon, from its position, seemed to have been left
there for the night, for beyond about half a truss of hay
which was heaped in the bottom, it 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 daybreak, he felt tempted to lie down upon
the hay in the waggon instead of pushing on to the
village of Weatherbury, and having to pay for a lodging.
Eating his las slices of bread and ham, and drinking
from the bottle of cider he had taken the precaution to
bring with him, he got into the lonely waggon. Here
he spread half of the hay as a bed, and, as well as he
could in the darkness, pulled the other half over him
by way of bed-clothes, covering himself entirely, and
feeling, physically, as comfortable as ever he had been
in his life. Inward melancholy it was impossible for
a man like Oak, introspective far beyond his neighbours,
to banish quite, whilst conning the present. untoward
page of his history. So, thinking of his misfortunes,
amorous and pastoral he fell asleep, shepherds enjoying,
in common with sailors, the privilege of being able to
summon the god instead of having to wait for him.
On somewhat suddenly awaking after a sleep of
whose length he had no idea, Oak found that the waggon
was in motion. He was being carried along the road
at a rate rather considerable for a vehicle without
springs, and under circumstances of physical uneasiness,
his head being dandled up and down on the bed of
the waggon like a kettledrum-stick. He then distinguished
voices in conversation, coming from the
forpart of the waggon. His concern at this dilemma
(which would have been alarm, had he been a thriving
man; but -- misfortune is a fine opiate to personal terror)
led him to peer cautiously from the hay, and the first
sight he beheld was the stars above him. Charles's
Wain was getting towards a right angle with the Pole
star, and Gabriel concluded that it must be about nine
o'clock -- in other words, that he had slept two hours.
This small astronomical calculation was made without
any positive effort, and whilst he was stealthily turning
to discover, if possible, into whose hands he had fallen.
Two figures were dimly visible in front, sitting with
their legs outside the waggon, one of whom was driving.
Gabriel soon found that this was the waggoner, and it
appeared they had come from Casterbridge fair, like
A conversation was in progress, which 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 nature, and more so
by circumstance, the jolting of the waggon not beingwithout
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
"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 nightcap
"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 remarks, a wild
thought flashed into Gabriel's mind that they might
be speaking of Bathsheba. There were, however, no
ground for retaining such a supposition, for the waggon,
though going in the direction of Weatherbury, might be
going beyond it, and 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
unnecessarily, Gabriel slipped out of the waggon unseen.
He turned to an opening in the hedge, which he
found to be a gate, and mounting thereon, he sat
meditating whether to seek a cheap lodging in the
village, or 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 on,
when he noticed on his left hand an unusual light --
appearing about half a mile distant. Oak watched it,
and the glow increased. Something was on fire.
Gabriel again mounted the gate, and, leaping down
on the other side upon what he found to be ploughed
soil, made across the field in the exact direction of the
fire. The blaze, enlarging in a double ratio by his
approach and its own increase, showed him as he drew
nearer the outlines of ricks beside it, lighted up to great
distinctness. A rick-yard was the source of the fire.
His weary face now began to be painted over with a
rich orange glow, and the whole front of his smockfrock
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 fence, and
stood to regain breath. It seemed as if the spot was
unoccupied by a living soul.
The fire was issuing from a long straw-stack, which
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 inwards, the portion in flames completely
disappears like melting sugar, and the outline is lost
to the eye. However, a hay or a wheat-rick, well put
together, will resist combustion for a length of time, if
it begins on the outside.
This before Gabriel's eyes was a- rick of straw, loosely
put together, and the flames darted into it with lightning
swiftness. It glowed on the windward side, rising and
falling in intensity, like the coal of a cigar. Then a
superincumbent bundle rolled down, with a whisking
noise; flames elongated, and bent themselves about
with a quiet roar, but no crackle. Banks of smoke
went off horizontally at the back like passing clouds,
and behind these burned hidden pyres, illuminating
the semi-transparent sheet of smoke to a lustrous yellow
uniformity. Individual straws in the foreground were
consumed in a creeping movement of ruddy heat, as
if they were knots of red worms, and above shone
imaginary fiery faces, tongues hanging from lips, glaring
eyes, and other impish forms, from 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 one, and behind this a series of
others, composing the main corn produce of the farm;
so that instead of the straw-stack standing, as he had
imagined comparatively isolated, there was a regular
connection between it and the remaining stacks of the
Gabriel leapt over the hedge, and 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 body, which 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 O, 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
smoke, and Gabriel found that, far from being alone
he was in a great company -- whose shadows danced
merrily up and down, timed by the jigging of the
flames, and not at all by their owners' movements.
The assemblage -- belonging to that class of society
which casts its thoughts into the form of feeling, and
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 staddles, and between these, tongues of yellow
hue from the burning straw licked and darted playfully.
If the fire once got under this stack, all would be
"Get a tarpaulin -- quick!" said Gabriel.
A rick-cloth was brought, and they hung it like a
curtain across the channel. The flames immediately
ceased to go under the bottom of the corn-stack, and
stood up vertical.
"Stand here with a bucket of water and keep the
cloth wet." said Gabriel again.
The flames, now driven upwards, began 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 sheaves, as 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
"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 holes, I
declare! A fine young shepherd he is too, ma'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 woman, passing 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 worsted, and Gabriel's elevated
position being no longer required of him, he made as
if to descend.
"Maryann." said the girl on horseback, "go 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
"Where is your master the farmer?" asked Gabriel,
kindling 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 half-pint cups. They say now
that she've business in every bank in Casterbridge, and
thinks no more of playing pitch-and-toss sovereign than
you and I, do pitch-halfpenny -- not a bit in the world,
"That's she, back there upon the pony." said Maryann.
"wi' her face a-covered up in that black cloth with
holes in it."
Oak, his features smudged, grimy, and undiscoverable
from the smoke and heat, his smock-frock burnt-into
holes and dripping with water, the ash stem of his sheepcrook
charred six inches shorter, advansed with the
humility stern adversity had thrust upon him up to
the slight female form in the saddle. He lifted his
hat with respect, and 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 face, and
looked all astonishment. Gabriel and his cold-hearted
darling, Bathsheba Everdene, were face to face.
Bathsheba did not speak, and he mechanically
repeated in an abashed and sad voice, --
"Do you want a shepherd, ma'am?"
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 pity, also for a very little
exultation: the former at his position, the latter at her
own. Embarrassed she was not, and she" remembered
Gabriel's declaration of love to her at Norcombe only
to think she had nearly forgotten it.
"Yes," she murmured, putting on an air of dignity,
and 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,
Conviction breeds conviction. "Ay, that 'a is." said
a second, decisively.
"The man, truly!" said a third, with heartiness."
"He's all there!" said number four, fervidly."
Then will you tell him to speak to the bailiff, said
All "was practical again now. A summer eve and
loneliness would have been necessary to give the
meeting its proper fulness of romance.
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 darkness, and 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 bailiff, finally, "all is settled, I
think, about your coming, and I am going home-along.
Good-night to ye, shepherd."
"Can you get me a lodging?" inquired Gabriel.
"That I can't, indeed," he said, moving 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 Malthouse, where they are all
gone to have their snap of victuals, I daresay some of
'em will tell you of a place. Good-night to ye, shepherd."
The bailiff who showed this nervous dread of loving
his neighbour as himself, went up the hill, and Oak
walked on to the village, still astonished at the rencounter
with Bathsheba, glad of his nearness to her, and
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.
Obliged, to some extent, to forgo dreaming in order
to find the way, he reached the churchyard, and passed
round it under the wall where several ancient trees grew.
There was a wide margin of grass along here, and
Gabriel's footsteps were deadened by its softness, even
at this indurating period of the year. When abreast of
a trunk which appeared to be the oldest of the old, he
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 stranger, who
started and assumed a careless position.
It was a slim girl, rather thinly clad.
"Good-night to you." said Gabriel, heartily.
"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 resumed, primarily to gain
the information, indirectly 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 heartiness, as Gabriel had been won by her
"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 speech, and the fact
that she did add more seemed to proceed from an
unconscious desire to show unconcern by making a
remark, which is noticeable in the ingenuous when they
are acting by stealth. "You are not a Weatherbury man?"
she said, timorously.
"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 repeated, in a dull cadence
of finality. "His thoughts were directed to the past, his
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 face, for 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 off, perhaps you would accept this
trifle from me. It is only a shilling, but 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 quick, hard beat in the femoral
artery of -- his lambs when overdriven. It suggested a
consumption too great of a vitality which, to judge from
her figure and stature, was already too little.
"What is the matter?"
"But there is?"
"No, no, no! Let your having seen me be a secret!"
"Very well; I will. Good-night, again."
The young girl remained motionless by the tree, and
Gabriel descended into the village of Weatherbury, or
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 impressions,
and Gabriel endeavoured to think little of this.
WARREN'S Malthouse was enclosed by an old wall
inwrapped with ivy, and though not much of the exterior
was visible at this hour, the 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 centre, upon which rose
a small wooden lantern, fitted with louvre-boards on all
the four sides, and 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 pane, through which red, comfortable
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-Somerer pattern, till
he found a leathern strap, which he pulled. This lifted
a wooden latch, and the door swung open.
The room inside was lighted only by the, ruddy glow
from the kiln mouth, which shone over ,the floor with
the streaming, horizontality of the setting sun, and 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 kiln, and into undulations
everywhere. A curved settle of unplaned oak
stretched along one side, and in a remote corner was a
small bed and bedstead, the owner and frequent occupier
of which was the maltster.
This aged man was now sitting opposite the fire, his
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
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 ceased, and every one ocularly criticised
him to the degree expressed by contracting the flesh of
their foreheads and looking at him with narrowed eyelids,
as if he had been a light too strong for their sight.
Several exclaimed meditatively, after 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 in, shepherd;
sure ye be welcome, though 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
"That's never Gable Oak's grandson over at Norcombe
-- never!" he said, as a formula expressive of
surprise, which nobody was supposed to take literally'.
"My father and my grandfather were old men of the
name of Gabriel." said the shepherd, placidly.
"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 maltster, the 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 son, a young man about sixtyfive,
with a semi-bald head and one tooth in the left
centre of his upper jaw, which made much of itself by
standing prominent, like a milestone in a bank. "But
"twas Joe had most to do with him. However, my son
William must have knowed the very man afore us --
didn't ye, Billy, afore ye left Norcombe?"
"No, 'twas Andrew." said Jacob's son Billy, a child
of forty, or thereabouts, who manifested the peculiarity
of possessing a cheerful soul in a gloomy body, and
whose whiskers were assuming a chinchilla shade here
and there.
"I can mind Andrew." said Oak, "as 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 family, and
"twas only last Purification Day in this very world, when
the use-money is gied away to the second-best poor
folk, you know, shepherd, and I can mind the day
because they all had to traypse up to the vestry -- yes,
this 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 maltster, removing from the fire his
eyes, which were vermilion-red and bleared by gazing
into it for so many years. "Take up the God-forgiveme,
Jacob. See if 'tis warm, Jacob."
Jacob stooped to the God-forgive-me, which was a
two-handled tall mug standing in the ashes, cracked
and charred with heat: it was rather furred with extraneous
matter about the outside, especially in the
crevices of the handles, the 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 that,
being 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.
Jacob, on receiving the order to see if the liquor was
warm enough, placidly dipped his forefinger into it by
way of thermometer, and having pronounced it nearly
of the proper degree, raised the cup and very civilly
attempted to dust some of the ashes from the bottom
with the skirt of his smock-frock, because Shepherd Oak
was a stranger.
"A clane cup for the shepherd." said the maltster
"No -- not at all," said Gabriel, in a reproving tone
of considerateness. "I never fuss about dirt in its pure
state, and when I know what sort it is." Taking the
mug he drank an inch or more from the depth of its
contents, and duly passed it to the next man.
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 tone,
after 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 name, a genial and pleasant
gentleman, whom to meet anywhere in your travels was
to know, to know was to drink with, and to drink with
was, unfortunately, to 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,
"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 grandson! -- 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 concerned, as
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-air, Henry did not refuse. He was a man
of more than middle age, with eyebrows high up in his
forehead, who laid it down that the law of the world
was bad, with a long-suffering look through his listeners
at the world alluded to, as it presented itself to his
imagination. He always signed his name "Henery" --
strenuously insisting upon that spelling, and if any
passing schoolmaster ventured to remark that the second
"e" was superfluous and old-fashioned, he 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 Coggan, who had passed the cup to Henery,
was a crimson man with a spacious countenance, and
private glimmer in his eye, whose 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, who, twenty years younger than Jan Coggan,
revolved 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 background,
thrusting 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 face, so I hear, Joseph?"
All looked at Joseph Poorgrass with pitying reproach.
"No -- I've hardly looked at her at all." simpered
Joseph, reducing his body smaller whilst talking,
apparently from a meek sense of undue prominence.
"And when I seed her, 'twas nothing but blushes with
"Poor feller." said Mr. Clark.
"'Tis a curious nature for a man." said Jan Coggan.
"Yes." continued Joseph Poorgrass -- his shyness,
which was so painful as a defect, filling him with a
mild complacency now that it was regarded as an
interesting study. "'Twere blush, blush, blush with
me every minute of the time, when 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 ye have suffered from it a long time,
we know."
"Ay ever since I was a boy. Yes -- mother was
concerned to her heart about it -- yes. But twas all
"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 Smallbury, deepening 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 'ee, Joseph. For
ye see, shepherd, though 'tis very well for a woman,
dang it all, 'tis awkward for a man like him, poor
"'Tis -- 'tis." said Gabriel, recovering 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 Bottom,
and had had a drap of drink, and lost his way as he was
coming home-along through Yalbury Wood, didn't ye,
Master 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 face, implying that a true
narrative, like time and tide, must 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 do, you
know, shepherd" (Gabriel nodded), " and Joseph, all
in a tremble, said, " Joseph Poorgrass, of Weatherbury,
"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' Weatherbury, sir." No, no; what's right
is right, and I never said sir to the bird, knowing 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 said, and
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 company, Jan 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 Poorgrass, as if there were some
conditions too serious even for modesty to remember
itself under, this 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 Joseph, acquiring confidence from the
warmth of the fire, the cider, and a perception of the
narrative capabilities of the experience alluded to.
"My heart died within me, that time; but I kneeled
down and said the Lord's Prayer, and then the Belie
right through, and then the Ten Commandments, in
earnest prayer. But no, the gate wouldn't open; and
then I went on with Dearly Beloved Brethren, and,
thinks I, this makes four, and 'tis all I know out of
book, and if this don't do it nothing will, and I'm a
lost man. Well, when I got to Saying After Me, I
rose from my knees and found the gate would open
-- yes, neighbours, the gate opened the same as ever."
A meditation on the obvious inference was indulged
in by all, and during its continuance each directed his
vision into the ashpit, which glowed like a desert in
the tropics under a vertical sun, shaping their eyes long
and liny, partly because of the light, partly from the
depth of the subject discussed.
Gabriel broke the silence. "What sort of a place
is this to live at, and 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 innermost
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
uncle was a very fair sort of man. Did ye know en,
be under 'em as under one here and there. Her
uncle was a very fair sort of man. Did ye know 'en,
shepherd -- 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 goodhearted
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 meaning."
"And so you see 'twas beautiful ale, and I wished
to value his kindness as much as I could, and not to
be so ill-mannered 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 one, too, that
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 times, or she's not herself; and
unholy exclamations is a necessity of life."
"But Charlotte." continued Coggan -- "not a word of
the sort would Charlotte allow, nor the smallest item of
taking in vain.... Ay, poor Charlotte, I wonder if she
had the good fortune to get into Heaven when 'a died!
But 'a was never much in luck's way, and perhaps 'a
went downwards after all, poor soul."
"And did any of you know Miss Everdene's-father
and mother?" inquired the shepherd, who found some
difficulty in keeping the conversation in the desired
"I knew them a little." said Jacob Smallbury; "but
they were townsfolk, and didn't live here. They've
been dead for years. Father, what sort of people were
mis'ess' father and mother?"
"Well." said the maltster, "he 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 Poorgrass, who 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 gentlemantailor
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
"O no, no! That man failed for heaps of money;
hundreds in gold and silver."
The maltster being rather short of breath, Mr. Coggan,
after absently scrutinising a coal which had fallen among
the ashes, took up the narrative, with a private twirl of
his eye: --
"Well, now, you'd hardly believe it, but that man --
husbands alive, after a while. Understand? 'a didn't
want to be fickle, but he couldn't help it. The poor
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 got, but feeling she's ticketed as my lawful
wife, I can't help my wicked heart wandering, do 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 shut, and
so 'a would get to fancy she was only his sweetheart, and
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 ever, and 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 see, he might have gone the bad road and
given his eyes to unlawfulness entirely -- yes, gross unlawfulness,
so to say it."
"You see." said Billy Smallbury, "The 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 way, and took to saying "Amen" almost as loud
as the clerk, and he liked to copy comforting verses
from the tombstones. He used, too, to hold the moneyplate
at Let Your Light so Shine, and 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; yes, and he would-box the charityboys'
ears, if they laughed in church, till they could
hardly stand upright, and 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-Morning, Mister Everdene; 'tis
a fine day!" "Amen" said Everdene, quite absentlike,
thinking only of religion when he seed a parson-
"Their daughter was not at all a pretty chile 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,
"He is." said Henery, implying that irony must cease
at a certain point. "Between we two, man and man, I
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 moods, looking
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. 'Ah, there's
people of one sort, and people of another, but that man
-- bless your souls!"
Gabriel thought fit to change the subject. "You
must be a very aged man, malter, to 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 growled terrible
crooked too, lately" 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,
grimly, and 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 be, malter?"
The maltster cleared his throat in an exaggerated
form for emphasis, and elongating his gaze to the
remotest point of the ashpit! said, in the slow speech
justifiable when the importance of a subject is so
generally felt that any mannerism must be tolerated
in getting at it, "Well, 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
Norcombe, and malted there two-and-twenty years, andtwo-
and-twenty years I was there turnip-hoeing and
harvesting. Ah, I knowed that old place, Norcombe,
years afore you were thought of, Master Oak" (Oak smiled
sincere belief in the fact). "Then I malted at Durnover
four year, and 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
time, to 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 conversation,
who 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 years, and ye don't ought to count-both halves
"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 Gabriel, soothingly.
"Ye be a very old aged person, malter." attested Jan
must have a wonderful talented constitution to be able
to live so long, mustn't he, neighbours?"
"True, true; ye must, malter, wonderful," said the
meeting unanimously.
The maltster, being know pacified, was even generous
enough to voluntarily disparage in a slight degree the
virtue of having lived a great many years, by mentioning
that the cup they were drinking out of was three years
older than he.
While the cup was being examined, the end of
Gabriel Oak's flute became visible over his smock-frock
I seed you blowing into a great flute by now at Casterbridge?"
"You did." said Gabriel, blushing faintly. "I've been
in great trouble, neighbours, and was driven to it.
take it careless-like, shepherd and your time will come
"Neither drum nor trumpet have I heard since
Christmas." said Jan Coggan. "Come, raise a tune,
Master Oak!"
"That I will." said Gabriel, pulling out his flute and
putting it together. "A poor tool, neighbours; 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
continued, "I'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 Poorgrass, in
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
iniquity, so to speak it -- as what he is. Yes, for our wives"
and daughters' sakes we should feel real thanks giving."
"True, true, -- real thanksgiving!" dashed in Mark
Clark conclusively, not feeling it to be of any consequence
to his opinion that he had only heard about a
word and three-quarters of what Joseph had said.
"Yes." added Joseph, beginning 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
turnpike, if 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 Casterbridge, for 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 Clark, with
additional criticism of Gabriel's countenance, the latter
person jerking out, with the ghastly grimace required by
the instrument, the chorus of "Dame Durden!
"I hope you don't mind that young man's bad
manners in naming your features?" whispered Joseph to
"Not at all." said Mr. Oak.
"For by nature ye be a very handsome man,
shepherd." continued Joseph Poorgrass, with winning
"Ay, that ye be, shepard." said the company.
"Thank you very much." said Oak, in the modest
tone good manners demanded, thinking, however, that
he would never let Bathsheba see him playing the
flute; in this severe showing a discretion equal to that
related to its sagacious inventress, the divine Minerva
"Ah, when I and my wife were married at Norcombe
Church." said the old maltster, not 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 shepherd" said 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 playing, and I not there, I
should be quite melancholy-like."
"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 hated lamely.
"New Lords new laws, as the saying is, I suppose,"
remarked Coggan.
"Ay, 'a b'lieve -- ha, ha!" said Susan Tall's husband,
in 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 Coggan, who had offered
him a lodging. A few minutes later, when the remaining
ones were on their legs and about to depart, Fray came
back again in a hurry. Flourishing his finger ominously
he threw a gaze teeming with tidings just -- where his eye
alighted by accident, which happened to be in Joseph
Poorgrass's face.
"O -- what's the matter, what's the matter, Henery?"
said Joseph, starting back.
"What's a-brewing, Henrey?" asked Jacob and Mark
"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
"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 table, in came the young man,
Susan Tall's husband, in 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 replied, looking 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 Poorgrass,
waving his hands spasmodically. "I've had the
news-bell ringing in my left ear quite bad enough for a
murder, and 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."
"O -- '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 farmhouse,
excepting the old maltster, whom neither news, fire,
rain, nor thunder could draw from his hole. There, as
the others' footsteps died away he sat down again and
continued gazing as usual into the furnace with his red,
bleared eyes.
From the bedroom window above their heads Bathsheba's
head and shoulders, robed in mystic white, were
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.
"Tomorrow 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 -- indeed, the 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 Jacob, turning 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 window,
which seemed that of Maryann. "But she had no
young man about here. Hers lives in Casterbridge, and
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. I 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 you, then"
she said in conclusion, closing the casement.
"Ay, ay, mistress; we will." they replied, and moved
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.
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 valley; and being just then uncarpeted, the face
of the boards was seen to be eaten into innumerable
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, whereverhe
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
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
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 scrubbingbrush
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
"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 apparent, approaching the
front of the building. The paces slackened, turned in
at the wicket, and, what was most unusual, came up
the mossy path close to the door. The door was
tapped with the end of a crop or stick.
"What impertinence!" said Liddy, in 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?" Bathsheba
Rat-tat-tat-tat, resounded more decisively from Bathsheba's
"Maryann, you go!" said she, fluttering under the
onset of a crowd of romantic possibilities.
"O ma'am -- see, here's a mess!"
The argument was unanswerable after a glance at
"Liddy -- you must." said Bathsheba.
Liddy held up her hands and arms, coated with dust
from the rubbish they were sorting, and looked imploringly
at her mistress.
"There -- Mrs. Coggan is going!" said Bathsheba,
exhaling her relief in the form of a long breath which
had lain in her bosom a minute or more.
The door opened, and a deep voice said --
"Is Miss Everdene at home?"
"I'll see, sir." said Mrs. Coggan, and 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 mathematics, and
who at this moment showed hands shaggy with fragments
of dough and arms encrusted with flour). "I
am never up to my elbows, Miss, in making a pudding
but one of two things do happen -- either my nose must
needs begin tickling, and I can't live without scratching
A woman's dress being a part of her countenance,
and any disorder in the one being of the same nature
with a malformation or wound in the other, Bathsheba
said at once --
"I can't see him in this state. Whatever shall I do?"
Not-at-homes were hardly naturalized in Weatherbury
farmhouses, so Liddy suggested -- "Say you're a fright
with dust, and can't come down."
"Yes -- that sounds very well." said Mrs. Coggan,
"Say I can't see him -- that will do."
Mrs. Coggan went downstairs, and returned the
answer as requested, adding, however, on her own
responsibility, "Miss 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 was, if 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 -retreated,
and the door closed.
"Who is Mr. Boldwood?" said Bathsheba.
"A gentleman-farmer at Little Weatherbury."
"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 said,
complainingly. "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!"
"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
A little boy came up at this moment and looked in
upon them. This child was one of the Coggans who,
with 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 friends, which he did
with an air of being thereby elevated above the common
herd of afflictionless humanity -- to which exhibition
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 away,
thing! You ought to be married by this time, and 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
"em, i daresay.?"
Bathsheba paused, as if about to refuse a reply, but
the temptation to say yes, since it was really in her
power was irresistible by aspiring virginity, in spite of
her spleen at having been published as old.
"A man wanted to once." she said, in a highly experienced
tone and the image of Gabriel Oak, as the farmer,
rose before her.
"How nice it must seem!" said Liddy, with the fixed
features of mental realization. "And you wouldn't have
"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 intention,
like the remarkable creatures known as Chain
Salpae, which, distinctly organized in other respects, have
one will common to a whole family. Some were, as
usual, in snow-white smock-frocks of Russia duck, and
some in whitey-brown ones of drabbet -- marked on the
wrists, breasts, backs, and sleeves with honeycomb-work.
Two or three women in pattens brought up the rear.
"The Philistines be upon us." said Liddy, making 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."
HALF-AN-HOUR later Bathsheba, in finished dress,
and followed by Liddy, entered 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-book, pen in her
hand, with 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 sew, sometimes
pausing and looking round, or with the air of a privileged
person, taking 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 Bathsheba, "I 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
"Nothing, ma'am.
"Have you done anything?"
"I met Farmer Boldwood." said Jacob Smallbury, 'and
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.
Well, now then" -- she looked into the book -- "Joseph
Poorgrass, are 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 public, and Henery Fray, who 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 them,
which advanced with the toes in no definite direction
forwards, but turned in or out as they chanced to swing.
"Matthew Mark, did you say? -- speak out -- I shall
not hurt you." inquired the young farmer, kindly.
"Matthew Moon mem" said Henery Fray, correctingly,
from behind her chair, to which point he had
edged himself.
"Matthew Moon." murmured Bathsheba, turning her
bright eyes to the book. "Ten and twopence halfpenny
is the sum put down to you, I see?"
"Yes, mis'ess." said Matthew, as 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 undertone, "and 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
"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.
"O mem -- don't ask me! Yielding women?" as
scarlet a pair as ever was!" groaned Henery under his
"Sit down.
"Who, mem?"
"Sit down,"
Joseph Poorgrass, in the background twitched, and
his lips became dry with fear of some terrible consequences,
as he saw Bathsheba summarily speaking, and
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 quarter, who 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-twenty, looked thirty, passed as
thirty-five, and was forty. She was a woman who never,
like some newly married, showed conjugal tenderness in
public, perhaps because she had none to show.
"Oh, you are." said Bathsheba. "Well, Laban, will
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."
"O 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 appreciation, for he was as irrepressibly
good-humoured under ghastly snubs as a parliamentary
candidate on the hustings.
The names remaining were called in the same
"Now I think I have done with you." said Bathsheba,
closing 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 Fray, trying 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 said,
"and Shepherd Oak don't mind his youth?" he added,
turning with an apologetic smile to the shepherd, who
had just appeared on the scene, and 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
"Oh you see, mem, his pore mother, not being a
Scripture-read 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 Cainey. 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,
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't, I'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. When, in the
writings of the later poets, Jove and his family are found
to have moved from their cramped quarters on the peak
of Olympus into the wide sky above it, their words show
a proportionate increase of arrogance and reserve.
Footsteps were heard in the passage, combining in
their character the qualities both of weight and measure,
rather at the expense of velocity.
(All.) "Here's Billy Smallbury come from Casterbridge."
"And what's the news?" said Bathsheba, as William,
after marching to the middle of the hall, took a handkerchief
from his hat and wiped his forehead from its
centre to its remoter boundaries.
"I should have been sooner, miss." he said, "if it
hadn't been for the weather." He then stamped with
each foot severely, and 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 Caster,
bridge 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
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
said, in glorious notes of triumph. Every looker-on's
inside shook with the blows of the great drum to his
deepest vitals, and there was not a dry eye throughout
the town among the public-house people and the nameless
"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."
Gabriel remained musing and said nothing, for 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
She then rose; but before retiring, addressed a few
words to them with a pretty dignity, to 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.) "Nom!"
(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-night, ma'am."
Then this small-thesmothete stepped from the table,
and surged out of the hall, her black silk dress licking
up a few straws and dragging them along with a scratching
noise upon the floor. biddy, elevating her feelings
to the occasion from a sense of grandeur, floated off
behind Bathsheba with a milder dignity not entirely
free from travesty, and the door was closed.
FOR dreariness nothing could surpass a prospect in the
outskirts of a certain town and military station, many
miles north of Weatherbury, at 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:
when, with impressible persons, love becomes solicitousness,
hope sinks to misgiving, and faith to hope: when
the exercise of memory does not stir feelings of regret
at opportunities for ambition that have been passed by,
and anticipation does not prompt to enterprise.
The scene was a public path, bordered on the left
hand by a river, behind which rose a high wall. On
the right was a tract of land, partly meadow'and partly
moor, reaching, at its remote verge, to a wide undulating
The changes of the seasons are less obtrusive on
spots of this kind than amid woodland scenery. Still,
to a close observer, they 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. Winter, in coming to the country hereabout,
advanced in well-marked stages, wherein might have
been successively observed the retreat of the snakes,
the transformation of the ferns, the filling of the pools,
a rising of fogs, the embrowning by frost, the collapse
of the fungi, and an obliteration by snow.
This climax of the series had been reached to-night on
the aforesaid moor, and for the first time in the season
its irregularities were forms without features; suggestive
of anything, proclaiming nothing, and 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 clothing, only
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 river, verticality
in respect of the wall behind it, and darkness as to
both. These features made up the mass. If anything
could be darker than the sky, it was the wall, and 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 there, and
upon its face were faintly signified the oblong shapes
of windows, though only in the upper part. Below,
down to the water's edge, the flat was unbroken by
hole or projection.
An indescribable succession of dull blows, perplexing
in their regularity, sent their sound- with difficulty
through the fluffy atmosphere. It was a neighbouring
clock striking ten The bell was in the open air, and
being overlaid with several inches of muffling snow, had
lost its voice for the time.
About this hour the snow abated: ten flakes fell
where twenty had fallen, then one had the room of
ten. Not long after a form moved by the brink of
the river.
By its outline upon the colourless background, a close
observer might have seen that it was small. This was
all that was positively discoverable, though it seemed
The shape went slowly along, but without much
exertion, for the snow, though sudden, was 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 stopped, and 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 bird,
rabbit, or squirrel in his childhood, could possibly have
thrown with such utter imbecility as was shown here.
Another attempt, and another; till by degrees the
wall must have become pimpled with the adhering
lumps of snow At last one fragment struck the fifth
The river would have been; seen by day to be of
that deep smooth sort which races middle and sides
with the same gliding precision, any 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 moans, and 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 heard, apparently produced by
the opening of the window. This was followed by a
voice from the same quarter.
"Who's there?"
The tones were masculine, and not those of surprise.
The high wall being that of a barrack, and marriage
being looked upon with disfavour in the army, assignations
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 building, that one would have said the wall was
holding a conversation with the snow.
"Yes." came suspiciously from the shadow." What
girl are you?"
"O, Frank -- don't you know me?" said the spot.
"Your wife, Fanny Robin."
"Fanny!" said the wall, in utter astonishment.
"Yes." said the girl, with a half-suppressed gasp of
There was something in the woman's tone which is
not that of the wife, and there was a mannerin 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,
"O yes -- of course."
"Can you -- come to me!"
My dear Fan, no! The bugle has sounded, the
barrack gates are closed, and I have no leave. We are
all of us as good as in the county gaol till to-morrow
"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
"I am surprised."
"Yes -- so am I. And Frank, when will it be?"
"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,
"Oh, I " see. Well -- you have to get proper
"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?"
"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
I'll go away now. Will you **qoDe,and seq be to-morroy
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 dean 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
"Ho -- ho -- Sergeant -- ho -- ho!" An expostulation
followed, but it was indistinct; and it became lost amid
a low peal of laughter, which was hardly distinguishable
from the gurgle of the tiny whirlpools outside.
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 hall, supported by beams
and pillars, and latterly dignified by-the name of Corn Exchange,
was thronged with hot men who talked among
each other in twos and threes, the 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 saplings, using them partly as walking-sticks
and partly for poking up pigs, sheep, neighbours with
their backs turned, and restful things in general, which
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 back, forming an"arch of it between his two hands,
overweighting 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 palm, which, after criticism,
was flung upon the floor, an issue of events perfectly
well known to half-a-dozen acute town-bred fowls which
had as usual crept into the building unobserved, and
waited the fulfilment of their anticipations with a highstretched
neck and oblique eye.
Among these heavy yeomen a feminine figure glided,
the single one of her sex that the room contained. She
was prettily and even daintily dressed. She moved
between them as a chaise between carts, was heard after
them as a romance after sermons, was 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 here, for at her first entry the
lumbering dialogues had ceased, nearly every face had
been turned towards her, and those that were already
turned rigidly fixed there.
Two or three only of the farmers were personally
known to Bathsheba, and to these she had made her
way. But if she was to be the practical woman she had
intended to show herself, business must be carried on,
introductions 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-bags, and by degrees adopted the professional
pour into the hand -- holding up the grains in her narrow
palm for inspection, in perfect Casterbridge manner.
Something in the exact arch of her upper unbroken
row of teeth, and in the keenly pointed corners of her
red mouth when, with parted lips, she somewhat
defiantly turned up her face to argue a point with a
tall man, suggested that there was potentiality enough
in that lithe slip of humanity for alarming exploits of
sex, and daring enough to carry them out. But her eyes
had a softness -- invariably a softness -- which, had they
not been dark, would have seemed mistiness; as they
were, it lowered an expression that might have been
piercing to simple clearness,
Strange to say of a woman in full bloom and vigor,
she always allowed her interlocutors to finish their statements
before rejoining with hers. In arguing on prices,
he held to her own firmly, as was natural in a dealer,
and reduced theirs persistently, as was inevitable in a
oman. But there was an elasticity in her firmness
which removed it from obstinacy, as 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
other, "Who 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. However, the interest was
general, and this Saturday's debut in the forum, whatever
it may have been to Bathsheba as the buying and selling
farmer, was unquestionably a triumph to her as the
maiden. Indeed, the sensation was so pronounced that
her instinct on two or three occasions was merely to
walk as a queen among these gods of the fallow, like a
little sister of a little Jove, and to neglect closing prices
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. Bathsheba, without looking within
a right angle of him, was conscious of a black sheep
among the flock.
It perplexed her first. If there had been a respectable
minority on either side, the case would have been
most natural. If nobody had regarded her, she would
have -- taken the matter indifferently -- such cases had
occurred. If everybody, this man included, she would
have taken it as a matter of course -- people had done
so before. But the smallness of the exception made the
She soon knew thus much of the recusant's appearance.
He was a gentlemanly man, with full and
distinctly outlined Roman features, the prominences
of which glowed in the sun with a bronze-like richness
of tone. He was erect in attitude, and quiet in
demeanour. One characteristic pre-eminently 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; and,
artificially, a woman't does likewise. Thirty-five and
fifty were his limits of variation -- he might have been
either, or 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
love, the consciousness of a certain immunity under
any circumstances from that worst possible ultimate,
the having to pay, makes them unduly speculative.
Bathsheba was convinced that this unmoved person
was not a married man.
When marketing was over, she rushed off to Liddy,
who was waiting for her -- beside the yellowing in which
they had driven to town. The horse was put in, and
on they trotted Bathsheba's sugar, tea, and drapery
parcels being packed behind, and expressing in some
indescribable manner, by their colour, shape, and
general lineaments, that they were that young ladyfarmer's
property, and the grocer's and drapers no
"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 forty, I 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
"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 carriage,
bowling along still more rapidly behind a horse of unimpeachable
breed, overtook 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 Bathsheba, and
looked at him as he outstripped them. The farmer had
never turned his head once, but with eyes fixed on the
most advanced point along the road, passed as unconsciously
and abstractedly as if Bathsheba and her charms
were thin air.
"He's an interesting man -- don't you think so?" she
"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! I
"Depend upon it he has. O yes, miss, he has!
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."
"O dear no, miss -- I can't think it between the
"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."
IT was Sunday afternoon in the farmhouse, on the
thirteenth of February. Dinner being over, Bathsheba,
for want of a better companion, had 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 own, for the fire was not
kindled in this part of the house early in the day;
and Bathsheba's new piano, which 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. Liddy, like a little brook, though
shallow, was always rippling; her presence had not so
much weight as to task thought, and yet enough to
exercise it.
On the table lay an old quarto Bible, bound 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 Bathsheba, bounding
from her seat with that total disregard of consistency
which can be indulged in towards a dependent, and
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 leaves, drab with age,
being quite worn away at much-read verses by the fore"
fingers "of unpractised readers in former days, where 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 Bathsheba, and 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 blushed, persisted in her intention, and placed
the key on -the book. A rusty patch immediately upon
the verse, caused by previous pressure of an iron
substance thereon, told 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 continued, adumbrating by
the remark the track her thoughts had taken.
"No, indeed." said Bathsheba, with 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 physiognomy, and shut
her lips decisively.
This move was unexpected, and proportionately dis
concerting. "What did he do?" Bathsheba said perforce.
"Didn't turn his head to look at you once all the
"Why should he?" again demanded her mistress,
wearing 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 comprehension, rather 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
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.
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-octavo, which 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 blank, that 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 envelope, and dipped her pen for the
"What fun it would be to send it to the stupid old
Boldwood, and how he would wonder!" said the
irrepressible Liddy, lifting her eyebrows, and 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
rest, and afford her the official glance of admiration
which cost nothing at all. She was far from being
seriously concerned about his nonconformity. Still,
it was faintly depressing that the most dignified and
valuable man in the parish should withhold his eyes,
and 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 Bathsheba, idly. "Now
then, head, Boldwood; tail, Teddy. No, we won't toss
money on a Sunday that would be tempting the devil
"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,
The book went fluttering in the air and came down shut.
Bathsheba, a small yawn upon her mouth, took the
pen, and with off-hand serenity directed the missive to
"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 exclaimed, throwing down the letter
frolicsomely. "'Twould upset the solemnity of a parson
The same evening the letter was sent, and was duly
returned to Weatherbury again in the morning.
Of love as a spectacle Bathsheba had a fair knowledge;
but of love subjectively she knew nothing.
AT dusk, on the evening of St. Valentine's Day, Boldwood
sat down to supper as usual, by a beaming fire
of aged logs. Upon the mantel-shelf before him was
a time-piece, surmounted by a spread eagle, and upon
the eagle's wings was the letter Bathsheba had sent.
Here the bachelor's gaze was continually fastening
itself, till 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 thereon, although they
were too remote for his sight --
The pert injunction was like those crystal substances
which, colourless themselves, assume the tone of objects
about them. Here, in the quiet of Boldwood's parlour,
where everything that ,was not grave was extraneous,
and where the atmosphere was that of a Puritan Sunday
lasting all the week, the letter and its dictum changed"
their tenor from the thoughtlessness of their origin to
a deep solemnity, imbibed from their accessories
Since the receipt of the missive in the morning,
Boldwood 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 eontemptibly 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 all, Boldwood, of course,
did 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
circumstance, and of striking out a course from inner
impulse, would look the same in the result. The vast
difference between starting a train of events, and directing
into a particular groove a series already started, is
rarely apparent to the person confounded by the
When Boldwood went to bed he placed the valentine
in the corner of the looking-glass. He was
conscious of its presence, even 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 pale, plump 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 writing, as a supplement to
the words written, had no individuality. She was a
misty shape, and well she might be, considering 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 form, and comparatively
ceased to be a vision: when he awoke there
was the letter justifying the dream.
The moon shone to-night, and its light was not of
a customary kind. His window admitted only a
reflection of its rays, and the pale sheen had that
reversed direction which snow gives, coming upward
and lighting up his ceiling in an unnatural way, casting
shadows in strange places, and 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 light, took the letter, pulled out
the flimsy sheet, shook the envelope -- searched it.
Nothing more was there. Boldwood looked, as he
had a hundred times the preceding day, at 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 wit-h 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 you, sir." 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 moment, on the ridge, up against the blazing
sky, a figure was visible, like the black snuff in the
midst of a candle-flame. Then it moved and began to
bustle about vigorously from place to place, carrying
square skeleton masses, which 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 intention, he entered the snowy field.
Gabriel, at that minute, descended the hill towards
the right. The glow stretched down in this direction
now, and touched the distant roof of Warren's Malthouse
whither the shepherd was apparently bent: Boldwood
followed at a distance.
THE scarlet and orange light outside the malthouse did
not penetrate to its interior, which was, as usual, lighted
by a rival glow of similar hue, radiating from the hearth.
The maltster, after having lain down in his clothes
for a few hours, was now sitting beside a three-legged
table, breakfasting of bread and bacon. This was
eaten on the plateless system, which is performed by
placing a slice of bread upon the table, the meat flat
upon the bread, a mustard plaster upon the meat, and
a pinch of salt upon the whole, then cutting them
vertically downwards with a large pocket-knife till wood
is reached, when the severed lamp is impaled on the
knife, elevated, and 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. Indeed,
he seemed to approach the grave as a hyperbolic curve
approaches a straight line -- less directly as he got nearer,
till it was doubtful if he would ever reach it at all.
In the ashpit was a heap of potatoes roasting, and a
boiling pipkin of charred bread, called "coffee." for the
benefit of whomsoever should call, for Warren's was a
sort of clubhouse. used as an alternative to the in!
"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 door, which
had been opened the previous moment. The form of
Henery Fray advanced to the fire, stamping 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 maltster, introductory matter being often
omitted in this neighbourhood, both from word and
deed, and 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 knife, as a butcher
picks up skewers.
Henery appeared in a drab kerseymere great-coat,
buttoned over his smock-frock, the white skirts of the
latter being visible to the distance of about a foot below
the coat-tails, which, when you got used to the style of
dress, looked natural enough, and even ornamental -- it
certainly was comfortable.
Matthew Moon, Joseph Poorgrass, and other carters
and waggoners followed at his heels, with great lanterns
dangling from their hands, which showed that they had
just come from the cart-horse stables, where 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 head, and smiled one of the bitter
smiles, dragging 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 face, to
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 attestation, and with
a wire-drawn smile of misery.
"'Twould do a martel man no harm to have what's
under her bonnet." said Billy Smallbury, who had just
entered, bearing his one tooth before him. "She can
spaik real language, and must have some sense somewhere.
Do ye foller me?"
"I do: but no baily -- I deserved that place." wailed
Henery, signifying wasted genius by gazing blankly at
visions of a high destiny apparently visible to him on
Billy Smallbury's smock-frock. "There, 'twas to be, I
suppose. Your lot is your lot, and Scripture is nothing;
for if you do good you don't get rewarded according to
your works, but 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 ensued, and as a sort of entr'acte
Henery turned and blew out the lanterns, which 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."
Pictures, for the most part wonderful frames."
"And long horse-hair settles for the drunk, with horsehair
pillows at each end." said Mr. Clark. "Likewise
looking-glasses for the pretty, and lying books for the
firm loud tread was now heard stamping outside;
the door was opened about six inches, and somebody on
the other side exclaimed --
"Neighbours, have ye got room for a few new-born
lambs?"Ay, sure, shepherd." 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, haybands
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.
"Well, Shepherd Oak, and how's lambing this year,
if I mid say it?" inquired Joseph Poorgrass.
"Terrible trying," said Oak. "I've been wet through
twice a-day, either in snow or rain, this 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 lad, with a small
circular orifice by way of mouth, advanced and deposited
two others, and retired as he was bidden. Oak lowered
the lambs from their unnatural elevation, wrapped them
in hay, and 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
"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?"
"O 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
Oak, sharply turning to the rest, and getting very
"These middle-aged men have been pulling her over
the coals for pride and vanity." said Mark Clark; "but
I say, let 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 Gabriel, sternly, "now 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. Clark, cordially.
"I suppose you've been speaking against her?" said
Oak, turning to Joseph Poorgrass with a very grim
"No, no -- not a word I -- 'tis a real joyful thing that
she's no worse, that's what I say." said Joseph, trembling
and blushing with terror. "Matthew just said -- -- "
"Matthew Moon, what have you been saying?" asked
"I? Why ye know I wouldn't harm a worm -- no,
not one underground worm?" said Matthew Moon,
looking very uneasy.
"Well, somebody has -- and look here, neighbours."
Gabriel, though one of the quietest and most gentle
men on earth, rose to the occasion, with martial
promptness and vigour. "That's my fist." Here he
placed his fist, rather smaller in size than a common
loaf, in the mathemarical centre of the maltster's little
table, and with it gave a bump or two thereon, as 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 mistress, why" (here the fist was raised and let fall
as T'hor 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 statement, but were deploring the
difference which gave rise to the figure; and Mark
Clark cried "Hear, hear; just what I should ha' said."
The dog George looked up at the same time after the
shepherd's menace, and though he understood English
but imperfectly, began to growl.
"Now, don't ye take on so, shepherd, and sit down!"
said Henery, with 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 clever, I'm sure." he added, making movements
associated with states of mind rather than body;
"we wish we were, don't we, neighbours?"
"Ay, that we do, sure." said Matthew Moon, with
a small anxious laugh towards Oak, to 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 moon,
"Yes, I can do a little that way." said Gabriel, as a
man of medium sentiments on the subject.
names upon their waggons almost like copper-plate,
with beautiful flourishes, and great long tails. A
excellent fine thing for ye to be such a clever man,
shepherd. Joseph Poorgrass used to prent to Farmer
James Everdene's waggons before you came, and 'a
could never mind which way to turn the J's and E's
-- could ye, Joseph?" Joseph shook his head to express
how absolute was the fact that he couldn't. "And so
you used to do 'em the wrong way, like this, didn't ye,
Joseph?" Matthew marked on the dusty floor with his
"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 Joseph, meekly. "But, you see,
I wasn't so much to blame, for 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 memory, too."
"'Tis a 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 Oak,
frankly." Indeed, I hoped for the place. At the same
time, Miss Everdene has a right to be own baily if
she choose -- and to keep me down to be a common
shepherd only." Oak drew a slow breath, looked sadly
into the bright ashpit, and 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 hay, and to recognize for the first time
the fact that they were born. Their noise increased to a
chorus of baas, upon which Oak pulled the milk-can from
before the fire, and taking a small tea-pot from the pocket
of his smock-frock, filled it with milk, and 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 Poorgrass, his
eyes lingering on the operations of Oak with the necessary
"I don't have them." said Gabriel.
"Ye be very badly used, shepherd." hazarded Joseph
again, in the hope of getting Oak as an ally in lamentation
after all. "I think she's took against ye -- that
I do."
"O no -- not at all." replied Gabriel, hastily, and a
sigh escaped him, which the deprivation of lamb skins
could hardly have caused.
Before any further remark had been added a shade
darkened the door, and Boldwood entered the malthouse,
bestowing 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 ago, and a letter was put
into my hand, which I opened without reading the
address. I believe it is yours. You must excuse the
accident please."
"O yes -- not a bit of difference, Mr. Boldwood --
not a bit." said Gabriel, readily. He had not a correspondent
on earth, nor was there a possible letter coming
to him whose contents the whole parish would not have
been welcome to persue.
Oak stepped aside, and 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 present, dear friend.
We mean to surprise Weatherbury by coming there soon
as husband and wife, though l blush to state it to one nearly
a stranger. The sergeant grew up in Weatherbury. Thanking
you again for your kindness,
"I am, your sincere well-wisher,
"Have you read it, Mr. Boldwood?" said Gabriel;
"if not, you 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
"H'm -- I'm afraid not one to build much hope upon
in such a case as this." the farmer murmured, "though
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 again, and in
came running Cainy Ball out of breath, his mouth red
and open, like the bell of a penny trumpet, from which
he coughed with noisy vigour and great distension of face.
"Now, Cain Ball." said Oak, sternly, "why 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 --
"Well -- what have you come for?"
"I've run to tell ye." said the junior shepherd,
supporting his exhausted youthful frame against the
doorpost," that you must come directly'. Two more ewes
have twinned -- that's what's the matter, Shepherd Oak."
"Oh, that's it." said Oak, jumping up, and dimissing
for the present his thoughts on poor Fanny. "You are
a good boy to run and tell me, Cain, and you shall
smell a large plum pudding some day as a treat. But,
before we go, Cainy, bring the tarpot, and we'll mark
this lot and have done with 'em."
Oak took from his illimitable pockets a marking iron,
dipped it into the pot, and 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.
"Now, Cainy, shoulder your two, and off Good
morning, Mr. Boldwood." The shepherd lifted the
sixteen large legs and four small bodies he had himself
brought, and vanished with them in the direction of
the lambing field hard by -- their frames being now in a
sleek and hopeful state, pleasantly contrasting with their
death's-door plight of half an hour before.
Boldwood followed him a little way up the field,
hesitated, and turned back. He followed him again
with a last resolve, annihilating return. On approaching
the nook in which the fold was constructed, the farmer
drew out-his pocket-book, unfastened-it, and allowed it
to lie open on his hand. A letter was revealed -- Bathsheba's.
"I was going to ask you, Oak." he said, with unreal
carelessness, "if you know whose writing this is? "
Oak glanced into the book, and replied instantly,
with a flushed face, " Miss 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 anonymous, or 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 Gabriel, the 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 mantelpiece, and sat down to
think of the circumstances attending it by the light of
Gabriel's information.
ON a week-day morning a small congregation, consisting
mainly of women and girls, rose from its knees
in the mouldy nave of a church called All Saints', in
the distant barrack-town before mentioned, at the end
of a service without a sermon. They were about to
disperse, when 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 uniform, with the three chevrons
of a sergeant upon his sleeve, strode up the aisle, with
an embarrassment which was only the more marked
by the intense vigour of his step, and 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; but, passing on through
the chancel arch, he never paused till he came close
to the altar railing. Here for a moment he stood
The officiating curate, who had not yet doffed his
surplice, perceived the new-comer, and followed him
to the communion-space. He whispered to the soldier,
and then beckoned to the clerk, who in his turn
whispered to an elderly woman, apparently his wife, and
they also went up the chancel steps.
"'Tis a wedding!" murmured some of the women,
brightening. "Let's wait!"
The majority again sat down.
There was a creaking of machinery behind, and
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
it, the 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 screen, the
door of which was kept shut during services, hiding
this grotesque clockwork from sight. At present, however,
the door was open, and the egress of the jack, the
blows on the bell, and the mannikin's retreat into.the
nook again, were visible to many, and audible throughout
the church.
The jack had struck half-past eleven.
"Where's the woman?" whispered some of the
The young sergeant stood still with the abnormal
rigidity of the old pillars around. He faced the southeast,
and was as silent as he was still.
The silence grew to be a noticeable thing as the
minutes went on, and nobody else appeared, and not a
soul moved. The rattle of the quarter-jack again from
its niche, its blows for three-quarters, its fussy retreat,
were almost painfully abrupt, and caused many of the
congregation to start palpably.
"I wonder where the woman is!" a voice whispered
There began now that slight shifting of feet, that
artificial coughing among several, which betrays a
nervous suspense. At length there was a titter. But
the soldier never moved. There he stood, his face to
the south-east, upright as a column, his 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 again, the puppet emerged, and the four
quarters were struck fitfully as before: One could almost
be positive that there was a malicious leer upon
the hideous creature's face, and a mischievous delight
in its twitchings. Then, followed the dull and remote
resonance of the twelve heavy strokes in the tower
above. The women were impressed, and there was no
giggle this time.
The clergyman glided into the vestry, and the clerk
vanished. The sergeant had not yet turned; every
woman in the church was waiting to see his face, and
he appeared to know it. At last he did turn, and
stalked resolutely down the nave, braving them all,
with a compressed lip. Two bowed and toothless old
almsmen then looked at each other and chuckled,
innocently enough; but the sound had a strange weird
effect in that place.
Opposite to the church was a paved square, around
which several overhanging wood buildings of old time
cast a picturesque shade. The young man on leaving
the door went to cross the square, when, in the middle,
he met a little woman. The expression of her face,
which had been one of intense anxiety, sank at the
sight of his nearly to terror.
"Well?" he said, in a suppressed passion, fixedly
looking at her.
"O, 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.
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 to-morrow 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
time, I warrant you!"
"But after all." she expostulated in a trembling voice,
"the mistake was not such a terrible thing! Now, dear
Frank, when shall it be?"
"Ah, when? God knows!" he said, with a light
irony, and turning from her walked rapidly away.
ON Saturday Boldwood was in Casterbridge market
house as usual, when the disturber of his dreams entered
and became visible to him. Adam had awakened from
his deep sleep, and behold! there was Eve. The
farmer took courage, and 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
mood, their usual intuition, either from carelessness or
inherent defect, seemingly fails to teach them this, and
hence it was that Bathsheba was fated to be astonished
Boldwood looked at her -- not slily, critically, or
understandingly, but blankly at gaze, in the way a
reaper looks up at a passing train -- as something foreign
to his element, and but dimly understood. To Boldwood
women had been remote phenomena rather than
necessary complements -- comets of such uncertain
aspect, movement, and permanence, that whether
their orbits were as geometrical, unchangeable, and
as subject to laws as his own, or as absolutely erratic
as they superficially appeared, he had not deemed it
his duty to consider.
He saw her black hair, her correct facial curves
and profile, and the roundness of her chin and throat.
He saw then the side of her eyelids, eyes, and lashes,
and the shape of her ear. Next he noticed her figure,
her skirt, and the very soles of her shoes.
Boldwood thought her beautiful, but wondered
whether he was right in his thought, for it seemed
impossible that this romance in the flesh, if so sweet
as he imagined, could have been going on long without
creating a commotion of delight among men, and provoking
more inquiry than Bathsheba had done, even
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. Boldwood, it must be remembered, though
forty years of age, had 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 neighbour, "Is Miss Everdene considered
"O 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
half, or quite, in 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
him, "Marry me." Why should she have done that
strange thing? Boldwood's blindness to the difference
between approving of what circumstances suggest, and
originating what they do not suggest, was 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 farmer, adding 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 done, but 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 sell, and jarred with his conceptions of her.
All this time Bathsheba was conscious of having
broken into that dignified stronghold at last. His
eyes, she knew, were following her everywhere. This
was a triumph; and had it come naturally, such a
triumph would have been the sweeter to her for this
piquing delay. But it had been brought about by
misdirected ingenuity, and 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 involved, Bathsheba
genuinely repented that a freak which had owed
its existence as much to Liddy as to herself, should
ever have been undertaken, to 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 that, if
he thought she ridiculed him, an apology would increase
the offence by being disbelieved; and if he
thought she wanted him to woo her, it would read
like additional evidence of her forwardness.
BOLDWOOD was tenant of what was called Little
Weatherbury Farm, and his person was the nearest approach
to aristocracy that this remoter quarter of the
parish could boast of. Genteel strangers, whose god
was their town, who might happen to be compelled to
linger about this nook for a day, heard the sound of
light wheels, and prayed to see good society, to the
degree of a solitary lord, or squire at the very least,
but it was only Mr. Boldwood going out for the day.
They heard the sound of wheels yet once more, and
were re-animated to expectancy: it was only Mr. Boldwood
coming home again.
His house stood recessed from the road, and the
stables, which are to a farm what a fireplace is to a
room, were behind, their lower portions being lost
amid bushes of laurel. Inside the blue door, open
half-way down, were 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 viewed, they presented
alternations of roan and bay, in shapes like a
Moorish arch, the tail being a streak down the midst
of each. Over these, and lost to the eye gazing in
from the outer light, the 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 end, whilst 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: here, after looking to the feeding
of his four-footed dependants, the celibate would walk
and meditate of an evening till the moon's rays streamed
in through the cobwebbed windows, or 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 simultaneously, and 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 enough,
but his was not an ordinary nature. That stillness,
which struck casual observers more than anything else
in his character and habit, and seemed so precisely
like the rest of inanition, may have been the perfect
balance of enormous antagonistic forces -- positives and
negatives in fine adjustment. His equilibrium disturbed,
he was in extremity at once. If an emotion possessed
him at all, it ruled him; a feeling not mastering him
was entirely latent. Stagnant or rapid, it was never
slow. He was always hit mortally, or he was missed.
He had no light and careless touches in his constitution,
either for good or for evil. Stern in the outlines of
action, mild in the details, he was serious throughout all.
He saw no absurd sides to the follies of life, and thus,
though not quite companionable in the eyes of merry
men and scoffers, and 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 seriously, if he failed to please
when they were comedies, there was no frivolous treatment
to reproach him for when they chanced to end
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 fearful,
and the stain upon her heart ineradicable. Moreover,
had she known her present power for good or evil over
this man, she would have trembled at her responsibility.
Luckily for her present, unluckily for her future tranquillity,
her 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 visible, he 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 hedge, and 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 sheep, when they have the first feed of the
meadows, before these are laid up for mowing. The
wind, which had been blowing east for several weeks,
had veered to the southward, and 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 rise, till in the completest silence of lone gardens
and trackless plantations, where- everything seems -helpless
and still after the bond and slavery of frost, there
are bustlings, strainings, united thrusts, and pulls-alltogether,
in comparison with which the powerful tugs of
cranes and pulleys in a noisy city are but pigmy efforts.
Boldwood, looking into the distant meadows, saw
there three figures. They were those of Miss Everdene,
Shepherd 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 shell; or the tablet, of
his soul, as he is reserved or ingenuous, overflowing 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 time, and with a fearful sense of exposure.
It is the usual experience of strong natures when they
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 years, without 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
subjective, and Boldwood was a living testimony to
the truth of the proposition. No mother existed to
absorb his devotion, no sister for his tenderness, no
idle ties for sense. He became surcharged with the
compound, which was genuine lover's love.
He approached the gate of the meadow. Beyond
it the ground was melodious with ripples, and 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 onee 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.
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 riding-habit --
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 trembled, turned, and 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 meanings, their form,
at the same time, being scarcely expressed. Silence
has sometimes a remarkable power of showing itself as
the disembodied soul of feeling wandering without its
carcase, and it is then more impressive than speech.
In the same way, to 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 thunder, so did Bathsheba's at her intuitive
"I feel -- almost too much -- to think." he said, with a
solemn simplicity. "I have come to speak to you without
preface. My life is not my own since I have beheld
you clearly, Miss Everdene -- I come to make you an
offer of marriage."
Bathsheba tried to preserve an absolutely neutral
countenance, and 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 bachelor, and I was a
confirmed bachelor. I had never any views of myself
as a husband in my earlier days, nor have I made any
calculation on the subject since I have been older.
But we all change, and my change, in this matter, came
with seeing you. I have felt lately, more and more,
that my present way of living is bad in every respect.
Beyond all things, I 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 exclaimed, in
a low voice. "I want you -- I want you to let me say
I love you again and again!"
Bathsheba answered nothing, and the mare 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 that, till she remembered that,
far from being a conceited assumption on Boldwood's
part, it 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 tone, " and 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 herself, but 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
"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 this, and the white row of upper teeth, and keenlycut
lips already noticed, suggested an idea of heartlessness,
which was immediately contradicted by the pleasant
"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 young, and it swelled with
sympathy for the deep-natured man who spoke so
"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. O, 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
"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 ground, and 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 it, and he, too, then went on.
"HE is so disinterested and kind to offer me all that I
can desire." Bathsheba mused.
Yet Farmer Boldwood, whether by nature kind or
the reverse to kind, did not exercise kindness, here.
The rarest offerings of the purest loves are but a selfindulgence,
and no generosity at all.
Bathsheba, not being the least in love with him, was
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 rank, would have been
wild to accept and proud to publish. In every point of
view, ranging from politic to passionate, it was desirable
that she, a lonely girl, should marry, and marry this
earnest, well-to-do, and respected man. He was close
to her doors: his standing was sufficient: his qualities
were even supererogatory. Had she felt, which she did
not, any wish whatever for the married state in the
abstract, she could not reasonably have rejected him,
being a woman who frequently appealed to her under,
standing for deliverance from her whims. Boldwood as
a means to marriage was unexceptionable: she esteemed
and liked him, yet she did not want him. It appears
that ordinary men take wives because possession is not
possible without marriage, and that ordinary women
accept husbands because marriage is not possible with,
out 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. Besides, Bathsheba's
position as absolute mistress of a farm and house
was a novel one, and 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 objections,
she had a strong feeling that, having 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
Boldwood, and 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; but, unfortunately, 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 garden, grinding 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 armury previous to a campaign.
Peace and war kiss each other at their hours of preparation
-- sickles, scythes, shears, and pruning-hooks, ranking
with swords, bayonets, and lances, in their common
necessity for point and edge.
Cainy Ball turned the handle of Gabriel's grindstone,
his 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 bent, the weight of his body
thrown over on the shears, and his head balanced sideways,
with 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
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
"Will you turn, Gabriel, and let me hold the shears?"
she said. "My head is in a'whirl, and I can't talk.
Gabriel turned. Bathsheba then began, with some
awkwardness, allowing her thoughts to stray occasionally
from her story to attend to the shears, which
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
"Yes, they did." said Gabriel. "You don't hold
the shears right, miss -- I knew you wouldn't know the
way -- hold like this."
He relinquished the winch, and 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 quietly, retired to his
handle, and 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 sad, but between
his moments of incredulity, relieved.
"They must have heard our conversation." she
"Well, then, Bathsheba!" said Oak, stopping the
handle, and gazing into her face with astonishment.
"Miss Everdene, you mean," she said, with 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 murmured,
with 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.
"Well, what is your opinion of my conduct." she
said, quietly.
"That it is unworthy of any thoughtful, and meek,
and comely woman."
In an instant Bathsheba's face coloured with the
angry crimson of a danby sunset. But she forbore
to utter this feeling, and 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 hit, but Bathsheba had unmistakably
lost her temper, and 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 felt, he coolly echoed her words --
"Or wishing it either."
A woman may be treated with a bitterness which
is sweet to her, and 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 bearable, even if
it stings and anathematizes there is a triumph in the
humiliation, and a tenderness in the strife. This was
what she had been expecting, and 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 finished, either. 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 emotion, her 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 breaking, rather than by a chain he
could not break. "I should be even better pleased to
go at once." he added.
"Go at once then, in Heaven's name!" said she,her
eyes flashing at his, though 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 dignity, as Moses left the presence of Pharaoh.
GABRIEL OAK had ceased to feed the Weatherbury
flock for about four-and-twenty hours, when on Sunday
afternoon the elderly gentlemen Joseph Poorgrass,
Matthew Moon, Fray, and half-a-dozen others, came
running up to the house of the mistress of the Upper
"Whatever is the matter, men?" she said, meeting
them at the door just as she was coming out on her
way to church, and ceasing in a moment from the close
compression of her two red lips, with 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 crosswise, after the pattern of
a portcullis, expressive of a double despair. Laban
Tall's lips were thin, and his face were rigid. Matthew's
jaws sank, and his eyes turned whichever way the
strongest muscle happened to pull them.
"Yes." said Joseph, "and 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
With Bathsheba it was a moment when thought was
blasted theirselves -- "
With Bathsheba it was a moment when thought was
speech and speech exclamation. Moreover, she had
hardly recovered her equanimity since the disturbance
which she had suffered from Oak's remarks.
"That's enought -- that's enough! -- oh, you fools!"
she cried, throwing the parasol and Prayer-book into
the passage, and running out of doors in the direction
signified. "To come to me, and not go and get them
out directly! Oh, the stupid numskulls!"
Her eyes were at their darkest and brightest now.
Bathsheba's beauty belonged rather to the demonian
than to the angelic school, she never looked so well as
when she was angry -- and particularly when the effect
was heightened by a rather dashing velvet dress, carefully
put on before a glass.
All the ancient men ran in a jumbled throng after
her to the clover-field, Joseph sinking down in the
midst when about half-way, like 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 down, and could not be stirred. These were
bodily lifted out, and the others driven into the adjoining
field. Here, after the lapse of a few minutes, several
more fell down, and lay helpless and livid as the rest.
Bathsheba, with a sad, bursting heart, looked 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 mouth, their breathing
being quick and short, whilst the bodies of all were
fearfully distended.
"O, 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 said, in a resigned tone.
"Only one man in the neighbourhood knows the way,"
said Joseph, now just come up. "He could cure 'em
all if he were here."
"Who is he? Let's get him!"
"Shepherd Oak," said Matthew. "Ah, he'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 him, nor
shall you if you stay with me. Ah!" she added, brightening,
"Farmer Boldwood knows!"
"O no, ma'am" said Matthew. "Two of his store
ewes got into some vetches t'other day, and were just
like these. He sent a man on horseback here post-haste
for Gable, and Gable went and saved 'em, Farmer
Boldwood hev got the thing they do it with. 'Tis a
holler pipe, with a sharp pricker inside. Isn't it,
"Ay -- a holler pipe." echoed Joseph. "That's what
"Ay, sure -- that's the machine." chimed in Henery
Fray, reflectively, with an Oriental indifference to the
flight of time.
"Well," burst out Bathsheba, "don't stand there with
your "ayes" and your "sures" talking at me! Get
somebody to cure the sheep instantly!"
All then stalked or in consternation, to get somebody
as directed, without any idea of who it was to be.
In a minute they had vanished through the gate, and
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 itself, and jumped high into the air. The
leap was an astonishing one. The ewe fell heavily, and
lay still.
Bathsheba went up to it. The sheep was dead.
"O, what shall I do -- what shall I do!" she again
exclaimed, wringing 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 which, whilst strong,
required no enunciation to prove it so. The "No, I
won't" of Bathsheba meant virtually, "I think I must."
She followed her assistants through the gate, and
lifted her hand to one of them. Laban answered to her
"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 field, and in two minutes
was on Poll, the bay, bare-backed, and with only a
halter by way of rein. He diminished down the
Bathsheba watched. So did all the rest. Tall
cantered along the bridle-path through Sixteen Acres,
Sheeplands, Middle Field The Flats, Cappel's Piece,
shrank almost to a point, crossed the bridge, and
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 hill, backed 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 hill, and the wearisome series had to be
repeated in reverse order: Whitepits, Springmead,
Cappel's Piece, The Flats, Middle Field, Sheeplands,
Sixteen Acres. She hoped Tall had had presence of
mind enough to give the mare up to Gabriel, and return
himself on foot. The rider neared them. It was Tall.
"O, what folly!" said Bathsheba.
Gabriel was not visible anywhere.
"Perhaps he is already gone!" she said.
Tall came into the inclosure, and leapt off, his face
tragic as Morton's after the battle of Shrewsbury.
"Well?" said Bathsheba, unwilling 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 farmer, opening 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
"woman 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 air, and fell
The men looked grave, as if they suppressed opinion.
Bathsheba turned aside, her 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 Smallbury,
compassionately. "Why not ask him softer like?
I'm sure he'd come then. Gable is a true man in that
Bathsheba checked her grief and wiped her eyes.
"O, it 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 collapse, not very dignified for the head
of an establishment, she went into the house, Tall 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 distance, was
about to fold it, then added these words at the
bottom: --
"Do not desert me, Gabriel!"
She looked a little redder in refolding it, and closed
her lips, as 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 been, and 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
time, but, leaning over the old bureau at which she had
written the letter, closed her eyes, as if to keep out both
hope and fear.
The case, however, was a promising one. Gabriel
was not angry: he was simply neutral, although her first
command had been so haughty. Such imperiousness
would have damned a little less beauty; and on the
other hand, such beauty would have redeemed a little
less imperiousness.
She went out when the horse was heard, and looked
up. A mounted figure passed between her and the
sky, and drew on towards the field of sheep, the 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
gratitude, and she said: --
"O, 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
Gabriel murmured a confused reply, and hastened
on. She knew from the look which sentence in her
note had brought him. Bathsheba followed to the
Gabriel was already among the turgid, prostrate forms.
He had flung off his coat, rolled up his shirt-sleeves,
and taken from his pocket the instrument of salvation.
It was a small tube or trochar, with 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 flank, and
selecting the proper point, he punctured the skin and
rumen with the lance as it stood in the tube; then he
suddenly withdrew the lance, retaining the tube in its
place. A current of air rushed up the tube, forcible
enough to have extinguished a candle held at the
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 flock,
Gabriel missed his aim in one case, and 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 labours,
Bathsheba came and looked him in the face.
"Gabriel, will you stay on with me?" she, said,
smiling winningly, and not troubling to bring her lips
quite together again at the end, because there was going
to be another smile soon.
"I will." said Gabriel.
And she smiled on him again.
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 lately, for the first time since
his prostration by misfortune, had been independent in
thought and vigorous in action to a marked extent --
conditions which, powerless without an opportunity as
an opportunity without them is barren, would 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 off, and the neap might soon come which
could not.
It was the first day of June, and the sheep-shearing
season culminated, the landscape, even to the leanest
pasture, being all health and colour. Every green was
young, every pore was open, and 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 kinds, fern-sprouts
like bishops' croziers, the square-headed moschatel, the
odd cuckoo-pint, -- like an apoplectic saint in a niche
of malachite, -- snow-white ladies'-smocks, the toothwort,
approximating to human flesh, the enchanter's nightshade,
and the black-petaled doleful-bells, were among
the quainter objects of the vegetable world in and about
Weatherbury at this teeming time; and of the animal,
the metamorphosed figures of Mr. Jan Coggan, the
master-shearer; the second and third shearers, who
travelled in the exercise of their calling, and do not require
definition by name; Henery Fray the fourth
shearer, Susan Tall's husband the fifth, Joseph Poorgrass
the sixth, young Cain Ball as assistant-shearer, and
Gabriel Oak as general supervisor. None of these were
clothed to any extent worth mentioning, each appearing
to have hit in the matter of raiment the decent mean
between a high and low caste Hindoo. An angularity
of lineament, and a fixity of facial machinery in general,
proclaimed that serious work was the order of the day.
They sheared in the great barn, called for the nonce
the Shearing-barn, which on ground-plan resembled a
church with transepts. It not only emulated the form
of the neighbouring church of the parish, but 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 sides, lofty enough to admit a waggon
laden to its highest with corn in the sheaf, were spanned
by heavy-pointed arches of stone, broadly and boldly cut,
whose very simplicity was the origin of a grandeur not
apparent in erections where more ornament has been
attempted. The dusky, filmed, chestnut roof, braced
and tied in by huge collars, curves, and diagonals, was
far nobler in design, because more wealthy in material,
than nine-tenths of those in our modern churches.
Along each side wall was a range of striding buttresses,
throwing deep shadows on the spaces between them,
which were perforated by lancet openings, combining
in their proportions the precise requirements both of
beauty and ventilation.
One could say about this barn, what could hardly
be said of either the church or the castle, akin to it in
age and style, that 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 mediaevalism, the 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 pile,
the eye regarded its present usage, the mind-dwelt upon
its past history, with a satisfied sense of functional
continuity throughout -- a feeling almost of gratitude,
and quite of pride, at the permanence of the idea
which had heaped it up. The fact that four centuries
had neither proved it to be founded on a mistake,
inspired any hatred of its purpose, nor given rise to
any reaction that had battered it down, invested this
simple grey effort of old minds with a repose, if not a
grandeur, which a too curious reflection was apt to
disturb in its ecclesiastical and military compeers. For
once medievalism and modernism had a common standpoint.
The lanccolate windows, the time-eaten archstones
and chamfers, the orientation of the axis, the
misty chestnut work of the rafters, referred to no exploded
fortifying art or worn-out religious creed. The defence
and salvation of the body by daily bread is still a study,
a religion, and 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' operations, which was
the wood threshing-floor in the centre, formed of thick
oak, black with age and polished by the beating of flails
for many generations, till 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 shirts, tanned arms, and the polished
shears they flourished, causing these to bristle with a
thousand rays strong enough to blind a weak-eyed man.
Beneath them a captive sheep lay panting, quickening
its pants as misgiving merged in terror, till 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 cities, Weatherbury was
immutable. The citizen's Then is the rustic's Now.
In London, twenty or thirty-years ago are old times;
in Paris ten years, or five; in Weatherbury three or
four score years were included in the mere present,
and nothing less than a century set a mark on its
face or tone. Five decades hardly modified the cut of
a gaiter, the embroidery of a smock-frock, by 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 shearers, and the
shearers were in harmony with the barn.
The spacious ends of the building, answering ecclesiastically
to nave and chancel extremities, were fenced
off with hurdles, the sheep being all collected in a crowd
within these two enclosures; and in one angle a catchingpen
was formed, in which three or four sheep were
continuously kept ready for the shearers to seize without
loss of time. In the background, mellowed by tawny
shade, were the three women, Maryann Money, and
Temperance and Soberness Miller, gathering up the
fleeces and twisting ropes of wool with a wimble for
tying them round. They were indifferently well assisted
by the old maltster, who, when the malting season from
October to April had passed, made himself useful upon
any of the bordering farmsteads.
"Behind all was Bathsheba, carefully watching the
men to see that there was no cutting or wounding
through carelessness, and that the animals were shorn
close. Gabriel, who flitted and hovered under her
bright eyes like a moth, did not shear continuously,
half 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 corner,
and cut pieces of bread and cheese.
Bathsheba, after throwing a glance here, a 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 initials, came
again to Gabriel, as he put down the luncheon to drag
a frightened ewe to his shear-station, flinging it over
upon its back with a dexterous twist of the arm
He lopped off the tresses about its head, and opened
up the neck and collar, his mistress quietly looking
"She blushes at the insult." murmured Bathsheba,
watching 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
enviable, for its delicacy, by many queens of coteries,
and would have been creditable, for its promptness, to
any woman in the world.
Poor Gabriel's soul was fed with a luxury of content
by having her over him, her eyes critically regarding
his skilful shears, which apparently were going to gather
up a piece of the flesh at every close, and yet never did
so. Like Guildenstern, Oak 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 group,
exclusively their own, and containing no others in the
world, was enough.
So the chatter was all on her side. There is a
loquacity that tells nothing, which was Bathsheba's;
and there is a silence which says much: that was
Gabriel's. Full of this dim and temperate bliss, he
went on to fling the ewe over upon her other side,
covering her head with his knee, gradually running
the shears line after line round her dewlap; thence
about her flank and back, and finishing over the tail.
"Well done, and done quickly!" said Bathsheba,
looking at her watch as the last snip resounded.
"How long, miss?" said Gabriel, wiping 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 clean, sleek 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 garment, which lay on the floor
in one soft cloud, united throughout, the portion visible
being the inner surface only, which, never before exposed,
was white as snow, and 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 skin, and away the simple
dam leaps, panting, over the board into the shirtless
flock outside. Then up comes Maryann; throws the
loose locks into the middle of the fleece, rolls it up,
and carries it into the background as three-and-a-half
pounds of unadulterated warmth for the winter enjoyment
of persons unknown and far away, who will,
however, never experience the superlative comfort
derivable from the wool as it here exists, new and pure
-- before the unctuousness of its nature whilst in a
living state has dried, stiffened, and 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 rams, old
ewes, and two-shear ewes had duly undergone their
stripping, and the men were proceeding with the shearlings
and hogs, when 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 entry, but there
he certainly was. Boldwood always carried with him a
social atmosphere of his own, which everybody felt who
came near him; and the talk, which Bathsheba's
presence had somewhat suppressed, was now totally
He crossed over towards Bathsheba, who turned to
greet him with a carriage of perfect ease. He spoke to
her in low tones, and she instinctively modulated her
own to the same pitch, and 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 words, which is apparent
every day, but even in her shades of tone and humour,
when the influence is great.
What they conversed about was not audible to
Gabriel, who was too independent to get near, though
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
shorn, they went on talking again. Concerning the
flock? Apparently not. Gabriel theorized, not without
truth, that 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 ground, in 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
She left Boldwood's side, and he walked up and
down alone for nearly a quarter of an hour. Then she
reappeared in her new riding-habit of myrtle-green, which
fitted her to the waist as a rind fits its fruit; and young
Bob Coggan led -on -her mare, Boldwood 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 manner, he snipped the
sheep in the groin. The animal plunged; Bathsheba
instantly gazed towards it, and saw the blood.
"O, Gabriel!" she exclaimed, with severe remonstrance
you 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 Oak, who "knew Bathsheba to be
well aware that she herself was the cause of the poor
ewe's wound, because she had wounded the ewe's shearer
in a -- still more vital part, it 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 her,
helped him occasionally to conceal a feeling.
"Bottle!" he shouted, in an unmoved voice of routine.
Cainy Ball ran up, the wound was anointed, and the
shearing continued.
Boldwood gently tossed Bathsheba into the saddle,
and 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 about, and they trotted
Boldwood's deep attachment was a matter of great
interest among all around him; but, after having been
pointed out for so many years as the perfect exemplar
of thriving bachelorship, his 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 Miller,
following them out of sight with her eyes.
"I reckon that's the size o't." said Coggan, working
along without looking up.
"Well, better wed over the mixen than over the moor,"
said Laban Tall, turning his sheep.
Henery Fray spoke, exhibiting 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
battles, and 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 characters, Bathsheba 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
absorb, but those which they reject, that give them the
colours they are known by; and win the same way people
are specialized by their dislikes and antagonisms, whilst
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 things, as nearly
as a battered frame dared to do so to such a froward
piece. You all know, neighbours, what a man I be,
and 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?" said, Henery,
"Because she told me all that passed." said Oak, with
a pharisaical sense that he was not as other shearers in
this matter.
"Ye have a right to believe it." said Henery, with
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 maltster,
in 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 se be his teeth bain't gone? Weren't I stale in
wedlock afore ye were out of arms? 'Tis a poor thing
to be sixty, when 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
"Weak as-water! yes." said Jan Coggan.- "Malter,
we feel ye to be a wonderful veteran man, and nobody
can gainsay it."
"Nobody." said Joseph Poorgrass. "Ye be a very
rare old spectacle, malter, and 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 satisfied, and so
apparently was Henery Frag. That matters should
continue pleasant Maryann spoke, who, what with her
brown complexion, and the working wrapper of rusty
linsey, had 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 second-hand 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 shearing, and said not another word. Pestilent
moods had come, and 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 herself, as beloved
by him and unmarried to another, he had coveted it.
His readings of her seemed now to be vapoury and
indistinct. His lecture to her was, he thought, one of
the absurdest mistakes. Far from coquetting with
Boldwood, she had trifled with himself in thus feigning
that she had trifled with another. He was inwardly
convinced that, in accordance with the anticipations of
his easy-going and worse-educated comrades, that day
would see Boldwood the accepted husband of Miss
Everdene. Gabriel at this time of his life had outgrown
the instinctive dislike which every Christian
boy has for reading the Bible, perusing it now quite
frequently, and he inwardly said, "I 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 Ball, casting 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
Poorgrass, in a pleasant, masticating manner of anticipation.
"Yes; victuals and drink is a cheerful thing,
and gives nerves to the nerveless, if the form of words
may be used. 'Tis the gospel of the body, without
which we perish, so to speak it."
FOR the shearing-supper a long table was placed on the
grass-plot beside the house, the 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 excited, her
red cheeks and lips contrasting lustrously with the mazy
skeins of her shadowy hair. She seemed to expect
assistance, and the seat at the bottom of the table was
at her request left vacant until after they had begun
and the duties appertaining to that end, which he did
with great readiness.
At this moment Mr. Boldwood came in at the gate,
and crossed the green to Bathsheba at the window.
He apologized for his lateness: his arrival was evidently
by arrangement.
"Gabriel." said she, " will 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 style,
in a new coat and white waistcoat, quite contrasting
with his usual sober suits of grey. Inwardy, too, he
was blithe, and consequently chatty to an exceptional
degree. So also was Bathsheba now that he had come,
though the uninvited presence of Pennyways, the bailiff
who had been dismissed for theft, disturbed her equanimity
for a while.
Supper being ended, Coggan began on his own
private account, without reference to listeners: --
l've lost my love and l care not,
I've lost my love, and l care not;
I shall soon have another
That's better than t'other!
I've lost my love, and I care not.
This lyric, when concluded, was received with a
silently appreciative gaze at the table, implying that the
performance, like a work by those established authors
who are independent of notices in the papers, was 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 Joseph, diminishing himself.
"Nonsense; wou'st never be so ungrateful, Joseph --
never!" said Coggan, expressing hurt feelings by an
inflection of voice. "And mistress is looking hard at
ye, as much as to say, "Sing 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 Joseph, differently;
"but if so be 'tis willed they do, they must."
"Now, Joseph, your song, please." said Bathsheba,
from the window.
"Well, really, ma'am." he replied, in a yielding tone,
"I don't know what to say. It would be a poor plain
ballet of my own composure."
Hear, hear!" said the supper-party.
Poorgrass, thus assured, trilled forth a flickering yet
commendable piece of sentiment, the tune of which
consisted of the key-note and another, the latter being
the sound chiefly dwelt upon. This was so successful
that he rashly plunged into a second in the same
breath, after 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'-ay, a'-nd sun'-ny' June',
When sma'-all bi'-irds they' do' sing.
"Well put out of hand." said Coggan, at 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 verse, Master 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 laughter, he pushed down his throat
as much of the tablecloth as he could get hold of, when,
after continuing hermetically sealed for a short time, his
mirth burst out through his nose. Joseph perceived it,
and 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: --
O 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 manners, and tranquility
was restored by Jacob Smallbury, who 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 Mnasylus, and other jolly dogs
of his day.
It was still the beaming time of evening, though
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 extent, or illuminating
the dead levels at all. The sun had crept round the
tree as a last effort before death, and then began to
sink, the shearers' lower parts becoming steeped in
embrowning twilight, whilst their heads and shoulders
were still enjoying day, touched with a yellow of selfsustained
brilliancy that seemed inherent rather than
The sun went down in an ochreous mist; but they
sat, and talked on, and grew as merry as the gods in
Homer's heaven. Bathsheba still remained enthroned
inside the window, and occupied herself in knitting,
from 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 this, Liddy brought candles into the back
part of the room overlooking the shearers, and their
lively new flames shone down the table and over the
men, and dispersed among the green shadows behind.
Bathsheba's form, still in its original position, was now
again distinct between their eyes and the light, which
revealed that Boldwood had gone inside the room, and
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 assented,
beckoning to Gabriel, who hastened up into the coveted
"Have you brought your flute? " she whispered.
"Yes, miss."
"Play to my singing, then."
She stood up in the window-opening, facing the
men, the candles behind her, Gabriel on her right hand,
immediately outside the sash-frame. Boldwood had
drawn up on her left, within the room. Her singing
was soft and rather tremulous at first, but it soon swelled
to a steady clearness. Subsequent events caused one
of the verses to be remembered for many months, and
even years, by 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 softly, however, as to abstain
entirely from making anything like an ordinary duet of
the song; they rather formed a rich unexplored shadow,
which threw her tones into relief. The shearers reclined
against each other as at suppers in the early ages of the
world, and so silent and absorbed were they that her
breathing could almost be heard between the bars; and
at the end of the ballad, when the last tone loitered on
to an inexpressible close, there 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
actions, none of which had any meaning of itself;
and the necessity of being jealous, which lovers are
troubled with, did not lead Oak to underestimate these
Bathsheba then wished them good-night, withdrew
from the window, and retired to the back part of the
room, Boldwood thereupon closing the sash and the
shutters, and remaining inside with her. Oak wandered
away under the quiet and scented trees. Recovering
from the softer impressions produced by Bathsheba's
voice, the 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 remarked, looking at
the worthy thief, as 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 Poorgrass, "that
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 thief, grimly.
"Well, I'll say this for Pennyways." added Coggan,
"that 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 departure, when nothing more was
visible of the inside of the parlour than a thin and still
chink of light between the shutters, a 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
She was standing behind a low arm-chair, from which
she had just risen, and he was kneeling in it -- inclining
himself over its back towards her, and holding her hand
in both his own. His body moved restlessly, and 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 component,
was, in its distressing incongruity, a 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 saying, in 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. But, Mr.
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 said, firmly. "But
remember this distinctly, I don't promise yet."
"It is enough I don't ask more. I can wait on
those dear words. And now, Miss Everdene, goodnight!"
"Good-night." she said, graciously -- almost tenderly;
and Boldwood withdrew with a serene smile.
Bathsheba knew more of him now; he had entirely
bared his heart before her, even 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 awestruck
at her past temerity, and 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 triumph, is marvellous.
AMONG the multifarious duties which Bathsheba had
voluntarily imposed upon herself by dispensing with the
services of a bailiff, was the particular one of looking
round the homestead before going to bed, to see that
all was right and safe for the night. Gabriel had almost
constantly preceded her in this tour every evening,
watching 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 mistress,
and as much as was known was somewhat thanklessly
received. Women are never tired of bewailing man's
fickleness in love, but they only seem to snub his constancy.
As watching is best done invisibly, she usually carried
a dark lantern in her hand, and 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 bedded, the fowls
not all in, or a door not closed.
This night the buildings were inspected as usual,
and she went round to the farm paddock. Here the
only sounds disturbing the stillness were steady munchings
of many mouths, and stentorian breathings from all
but invisible noses, ending in snores and puffs like the
blowing of bellows slowly. Then the munching would
recommence, when the lively imagination might assist
the eye to discern a group of pink-white nostrils, shaped
as caverns, and very clammy and humid on their surfaces,
not 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
eyes, and above all a pair of whitish crescent-shaped
horns like two particularly new moons, an occasional
stolid " moo!" proclaiming beyond the shade of a doubt
that these phenomena were the features and persons of
Daisy, Whitefoot, Bonny-lass, Jolly-O, Spot, Twinkle-eye,
etc., 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 firs, which 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 noontide,
twilight in the evening, dark as midnight at dusk, and
black as the ninth plague of Egypt at midnight. To
describe the spot is to call it a vast, low, naturally formed
hall, the plumy ceiling of which was supported by slender
pillars of living wood, the floor being covered with a soft
dun carpet of dead spikelets and mildewed cones, with
a tuft of grass-blades here and there.
This bit of the path was always the crux of the
night's ramble, though, before starting, her apprehensions
of danger were not vivid enough to lead her to
take a companion. Slipping along here covertly as
Time, Bathsheba 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 public, and that the traveller was
probably some villager returning home; regetting, at
the same time, that the meeting should be about to
occur in the darkest point of her route, even though
only just outside her own door.
The noise approached, came close, and 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 voice,
a foot or so above her head. "Have I hurt you, mate?"
"No." said Bathsheba, attempting to shrink a way.
"We have got hitched together somehow, I think."
"Are you a woman?"
"A lady, I should have said."
"It doesn't matter."
"I am a man."
Bathsheba softly tugged again, but to no purpose.
"Is that a dark lantern you have? I fancy so." said
the man.
"If you'll allow me I'll open it, and set you free."
A hand seized the lantern, the door was opened, the
rays burst out from their prison, and 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 hitherto,
was now totally overthrown, less 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 said,
with new-born gallantry.
"O no -- I can do it, thank you." she hastily replied,
and 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 moments, that separation was likely
to be a matter of time.
He too stooped, and 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 faces, and sent over half the plantation
gigantic shadows of both man and woman, each
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 again, for his
gaze was too strong to be received point-blank with her
own. But she had obliquely noticed that he was young
and slim, and that he wore three chevrons upon his
Bathsheba pulled again.
"You are a prisoner, miss; it is no use blinking the
matter." said the soldier, drily. "I must cut your dress
if you are in such a hurry."
"Yes -- please do!" she exclaimed, helplessly. "
"It wouldn't be necessary if you could wait a
moment," and he unwound a cord from the little
wheel. She withdrew her own hand, but, whether by
accident or design, he touched it. Bathsheba was
vexed; she hardly knew why.
His unravelling went on, but 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 sergeant, without ceremony.
She coloured with embarrassment. "'Twas unwillingly
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 incivility, miss." he
"I should have liked -- I wish -- you had never shown
yourself to me by intruding here!" She pulled again,
and 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!"
"O, '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 sergeant, with a
merry twinkle.
"I tell you you have!" she exclaimed, in high
temper. I insist upon undoing it. Now, allow 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
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
position, not naturally timid, and within call of her
retainers, would 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 said, bowing
Bathsheba really knew not what to say.
"I've seen a good many women in my time,
continued the young man in a murmur, and 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 up, and so
did he. How to decently get away from him -- that
was her difficulty now. She sidled off inch by inch,
the lantern in her hand, till she could see the redness
of his coat no longer.
"Ah, Beauty; good-bye!" he said.
She made no reply, and, reaching a distance of
twenty or thirty yards, turned about, and ran indoors.
Liddy had just retired to rest. In ascending to her
own chamber, Bathsheba opened the girl's door an
inch or two, and, panting, said --
"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?"
"O! 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
"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,
"I believe so. Good-night, Liddy."
After all, how 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 often, when they want to
be mastered, which is sometimes; and when they want
no nonsense, which is seldom. Just now the first
feeling was in the ascendant with Bathsheba, with a dash
of the second. Moreover, by chance or by devilry, the
ministrant was antecedently made interesting by being
a handsome stranger who had evidently seen better
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 herself, in 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.
IDIOSYNCRASY and vicissitude had combined to
stamp Sergeant Troy as an exceptional being.
He was a man to whom memories were an incumbrance,
and anticipations a superfluity. Simply
feeling, considering, and caring for what was before his
eyes, he 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 come, which makes the past a synonym
for the pathetic and the future a word for circumspection,
was foreign to Troy. With him the past
was yesterday; the future, to-morrow; never, the day
On this account he might, in certain lights, have
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 disease,
and that expectation in its only comfortable form -- that
of absolute faith -- is practically an impossibility; whilst
in the form of hope and the secondary compounds,
patience, impatience, resolve, curiosity, it is a constant
fluctuation between pleasure and pain.
Sergeant Troy, being entirely innocent of the
practice of expectation, was 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 material, since
those who suffer do not mind it, whilst those who mind
it soon cease to suffer. It is not a denial of anything
to have been always without it, and what Troy had
never enjoyed he did not miss; but, being fully
conscious that what sober people missed he enjoyed,
his capacity, though really less, seemed greater than
He was moderately truthful towards men, but 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 hence, though his morals had
hardly been applauded, disapproval of them" had frequently
been tempered with a smile. This treatment
had led to his becoming a sort of regrater of other
men's gallantries, to his own aggrandizement as a
Corinthian, rather than to the moral profit of his
His reason and his propensities had seldom any
reciprocating influence, having separated by mutual
consent long ago: thence it sometimes happened that,
while his intentions were as honourable as could be
wished, any 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 meditation, the latter
had a modest tendency to be oftener heard of than
Troy was full of activity, but his activities were less of
a locomotive than a vegetative nature; and, never being
based upon any original choice of foundation or direction,
they were exercised on whatever object chance
might place in their way. Hence, whilst he sometimes
reached the brilliant in speech because that -was
spontaneous, he fell below the commonplace in action,
from inability to guide incipient effort. He had a
quick comprehension and considerable force of character;
but, being without the power to combine them,
the comprehension became engaged with trivialities
whilst waiting for the will to direct it, and the force
wasted itself in useless grooves through unheeding the
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 instance, he
could speak of love and think of dinner; call on the
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
proverb, or say that they are Christians and the like,
without 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 experiment,
and it is for their happiness, perhaps, that accident
has never settled it for them. Nevertheless, that a
male dissembler who by deluging her with untenable
fictions charms the female wisely, may acquire powers
reaching to the extremity of perdition, is a truth taught
to many by unsought and wringing occurrences. And
some profess to have attained to the same knowledge
by experiment as aforesaid, and 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
This philosopher's public appearance in Weatherbury
promptly followed his arrival there. A week or two
after the shearing, Bathsheba, feeling a nameless relief
of spirits on account of Boldwood's absence, approached
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
men, the latter the women, who wore tilt bonnets
covered with nankeen, which hung in a curtain upon
their shoulders. Coggan and Mark Clark were mowing
in a less forward meadow, Clark humming a tune to
the strokes of his scythe, to 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 windrows, and the men tossing it upon the
From behind the waggon a bright scarlet spot
emerged, and went on loading unconcernedly with the
rest. It was the gallant sergeant, who 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
As soon as she had entered the field Troy saw her,
and sticking his pitchfork into the ground and picking
up his crop or cane, he came forward. Bathsheba
blushed with half-angry embarrassment, and adjusted
her eyes as well as her feet to the direct line of her
"AH, Miss Everdene!" said the sergeant, touching his
diminutive cap. "Little did I think it was you I was
speaking to the other night. And yet, if I had reflected,
the "Queen of the Corn-market" (truth is truth at any
hour of the day or night, and I heard you so named in
Casterbridge yesterday), the "Queen of the Corn-market."
I say, could 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 you, and 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-market, in 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 any"
"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 Troy, "I 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 said,
turning 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 said, carelessly. "But I have the sad satisfaction
of knowing that my words, whether pleasing or
offensive, are unmistakably true. Would you have had
me look at you, and tell my acquaintance that you are
quite a common-place woman, to 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
Bathsheba, laughing in spite of herself at the sergeant's
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 followed, whirling his crop.
"But -- Miss Everdene -- you do forgive me?"
"Hardly. "
"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 said, in 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
"O, fie -- fie-! Am I any worse for breaking the
third of that Terrible Ten than you for breaking the
"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."
"O yes, they must!"
"Well, I mean to my face, as you do." she went on,
allowing 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 -- capitulation, unknown to herself.
Never did a fragile tailless sentence convey a
more perfect meaning. The careless sergeant smiled
within himself, and probably too the devil smiled from
a loop-hole in Tophet, for the moment was the turningpoint
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 soldier, in
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 otherwise.
"How -- indeed?" she said, opening her eyes.
"O, 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"
love, with each ordinary woman. She can marry him:
he is content, and 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 world, because they have no ambition apart from
their attachment to you; twenty more -- the susceptible
person myself possibly among them -- will be always
draggling after you, getting where they may just see
you, doing 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 men, but
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 yourself, Miss Everdene,
is 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 reply, he said, "Do you read
"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
"Ah!" she replied, and there was even a little tremulousness
in the usually cool girl's voice; "if you can
only fight half as winningly as you can talk, you 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 it,
she 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 Troy,
with much hearty conviction on the exterior of his face:
and altering the expression to moodiness; "when a
dozen men arfe ready to speak tenderly to you, and
give the admiration you deserve without adding the
warning you need, it stands to reason that my poor
rough-and-ready mixture of praise and blame cannot
convey much pleasure. Fool as I may be, I am not so
conceited as to suppose that!"
"I think you -- are conceited, nevertheless." said
Bathsheba, looking askance at a reed she was fitfully
pulling with one hand, having lately grown feverish
under the soldier's system of procedure -- not because
the nature of his cajolery was entirely unperceived, but
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 selfconceit
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
woman, in painfully innocent earnest. "And I thank
you for giving help here. But -- but mind you don't
speak to me again in that way, or in any other, unless
I speak to you."
"O, Miss Bathsheba! That is to 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 asked, with
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?"
"I 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."
"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 curiously, from the feet
upward, as high as she liked to venture her glance,
which was not quite so high as his eyes.
"You cannot and you don"t." she said demurely.
"There is-no such sudden feeling in people. I won't
listen to you any longer. Hear me, I 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 watch, miss?" 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
intending, a 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 lord, and was given to my mother's husband, a
medical man, for his use till I came of age, when 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 ceremonial, the courtly assignation,
pompous travels, and lordly sleeps. Now it is
"But, Sergeant Troy, I cannot take this -- I cannot!"
she exclaimed, with 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 well, and
the pleasure of knowing whose heart my old one beats
against -- well, I 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 said, in a perfect
simmer of distress. "O, how can you do such a thing;
that is if you really mean it! Give me your dead
father's watch, and such a valuable one! You should
not be so reckless, indeed, Sergeant Troy!"
"I loved my father: good; but better, I love you
more. That's how I can do it." said the sergeant, with
an intonation of such exquisite fidelity to nature that it.
was evidently not all acted now. Her beauty, which,
whilst it had been quiescent, he had praised in jest,
had in its animated phases moved him to earnest; and
though his seriousness was less than she imagined, it
was probably more than he imagined himself.
Bathsheba was brimming with agitated bewilderment,
and she said, in half-suspicious accents of feeling, "Can
it be! O, 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; O, 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 lips, but
it was again suspended, and he looked at her with an
arrested eye. The truth was, that as she now stood --
excited, wild, and 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 mechanically, "Ah,
why?" and continued to look at her.
"And my workfolk see me following you about the
field, and are wondering. O, this is dreadful!" she
went on, unconscious of the transmutation she was
"I did not quite mean you to accept it at first, for it
as my one poor patent of nobility." he broke out,
bluntly; "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."
"bet it be, then, let it be." he said, receiving 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! O,
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."
The sergeant brought his hand to the cap on the
slope of his head, saluted, and returned to the distant
group of haymakers.
Bathsheba could not face the haymakers now. Her
heart erratically flitting hither and thither from perplexed
excitement, hot, and almost tearful, she retreated
homeward, murmuring, O, what have I done! What
does it mean! I wish I knew how much of it was
THE Weatherbury bees were late in their swarming this
year. It was in the latter part of June, and the day after
the interview with Troy in the hayfield, that Bathsheba
was standing in her garden, watching a swarm in the
air and guessing their probable settling place. Not only
were they late this year, but 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 apple-tree; next year they would, with just
the same unanimity, make straight off to the uppermost
member of some tall, gaunt costard, or quarrenden,
and there defy all invaders who did not come armed
with ladders and staves to take them.
This was the case at present. Bathsheba's eyes,
shaded by one hand, were 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 ago,
was observable. The bustling swarm had swept the sky
in a scattered and uniform haze, which now thickened to
a nebulous centre: this glided on to a bough and grew
still denser, till it formed a solid black spot upon the
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 herself, if possible. She had dressed the hive
with herbs and honey, fetched a ladder, brush, and
crook, made herself impregnable with armour of leather
gloves, straw hat, and 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 off,
a 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 brush, crook, and empty
hive, pulled the skirt of her dress tightly round her
ankles in a tremendous flurry, and as well as she could
slid down the ladder. By the time she reached the
bottom Troy was there also, and 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 asked, in what, for a
defiant girl, was a faltering way; though, for a timid
girl, it would have seemed a brave way enough.
"Will I!" said Troy. "Why, of 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
head, Troy 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 was, she 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 tree,
holding 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 length, behind which trailed a cloud
of bees.
"Upon my life." said Troy, through the veil," holding
up this hive makes one's arm ache worse than a week
of sword-exercise." 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 neck, she said: --
"I have never seen that you spoke of."
"The sword-exercise."
"Ah! would you like to?" said Troy.
Bathsheba hesitated. She had heard wondrous
reports from time to time by dwellers in Weatherbury,
who had by chance sojourned awhile in Casterbridge,
near the barracks, of this strange and glorious performance,
*tlie sword-exercise. Men and boys who had
peeped through chinks or over walls into the barrackyard
returned with accounts of its being the most
flashing affair conceivable; accoutrements and weapons
glistening like stars-here,there,around-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.
lt 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?"
"O no, indeed!" said Bathsheba, blushing." Thank
you very much, but I couldn't on any account.
"Surely you might? Nobody would know."
She shook her head, but 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.
"Well, I won't bring Liddy -- and I'll come. But
only for a very short time." she added; "a very short
"It will not take five minutes." said Troy.
THE hill opposite Bathsheba's dwelling extended, a
mile off, into an uncultivated tract of land, dotted at
this season with tall thickets of brake fern, plump and
diaphanous from recent rapid growth, and radiant in
hues of clear and untainted green.
At eight o'clock this midsummer evening, whilst the
bristling ball of gold in the west still swept the tips of
the ferns with its long, luxuriant rays, a soft brushingby
of garments might have been heard among them,
and Bathsheba appeared in their midst, their soft,
feathery arms caressing her up to her shoulders. She
paused, turned, went back over the hill and half-way
to her own door, whence she cast a farewell glance upon
the spot she had just left, having 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
She waited one minute -- two minutes -- thought of
Troy's disappointment at her non-fulfilment of a promised
engagement, till she again ran along the field, clambered
over the bank, and 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 quickly, and her eyes shone with an infrequent
light. Yet go she must. She reached the
verge of a pit in the middle of the ferns. Troy stood
in the bottom, looking up towards her.
"I heard you rustling through the fern before I saw
you." he said, coming up and giving her his hand to help
her down the slope.
The pit was a saucer-shaped concave, naturally
formed, with a top diameter of about thirty feet, and
shallow enough to allow the sunshine to reach their
heads. Standing in the centre, the 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 intermingled, so
yielding that the foot was half-buried within it.
"Now." said Troy, producing the sword, which, as he
raised it into the sunlight, gleamed a sort of greeting,
like a living thing, "first, 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 rainbow, upside down in
the air, and Troy's arm was still again. "Cut two, as if
you were hedging -- so. Three, as if you were reaping
-- so." Four, as if you were threshing -- in that way.
"Then the same on the left. The thrusts are these: one,
two, three, four, right; one, two, three, four, 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 practice, in
this way." He gave the movements as before. "There,
those are the stereotyped forms. The infantry have
two most diabolical upward cuts, which 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
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 directed, facing Troy.
"Now just to learn whether you have pluck enough
to let me do what I wish, I'll give you a preliminary
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 side, just
above her hip; then of their reappearance on her right
side, emerging as it were from between her ribs, having
apparently passed through her body. The third item
of consciousness was that of seeing the same sword,
perfectly 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 affright, pressing her hand to
her side." Have you run me through? -- no, you have
not! Whatever have you done!"
"I have not touched you." said Troy, quietly. "It
was mere sleight of hand. The sword passed behind
you. Now you are not afraid, are you? Because if
you are l can't perform. I give my word that l will
not only not hurt you, but 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 rays, above, around, in front of her, well-nigh shut
out earth and heaven -- all emitted in the marvellous
evolutions of Troy's reflecting blade, which seemed
everywhere at once, and yet nowherre 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 short, she was enclosed in a firmament
of light, and of sharp hisses, resembling 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 Troy, and
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 cuts, that had it been
possible for the edge of the sword to leave in the air a
permanent substance wherever it flew past, the space
left untouched would have been almost a mould of
Bathsheba's figure.
Behind the luminous streams of this aurora militaris,
she could see the hue of Troy's sword arm, spread in a
scarlet haze over the space covered by its motions, like
a twanged harpstring, and behind all Troy himself,
mostly facing her; sometimes, to show the rear cuts,
half turned away, his eye nevertheless always keenly
measuring her breadth and outline, and his lips tightly
closed in sustained effort. Next, his movements lapsed
slower, and she could see them individually. The
hissing of the sword had ceased, and he stopped
"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. O, you have
spoilt my hair!"
"Only once more."
"No -- no! I am afraid of you -- indeed I am!" she
"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 bosom,
and seemingly enter it. Bathsheba closed her eyes in
the full persuasion that she was killed at last. However,
feeling just as usual, she opened them again.
"There it is, look." said the sargeant, holding his
sword before her eyes.
The caterpillar was spitted upon its point.
"Why, it is magic!" said Bathsheba, amazed.
"O 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 blade,
and then, lifting it, showed her a thin shaving of scarfskin
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
life, and didn't know it!"
"More precisely speaking, you have been within half
an inch of being pared alive two hundred and ninety-five
"Cruel, cruel, 'tis of you!"
"You have been perfectly safe, nevertheless. My
sword never errs." And Troy returned the weapon to
the scabbard.
Bathsheba, overcome by a hundred tumultuous feelings
resulting from the scene, abstractedly sat down on
a tuft of heather.
"I must leave you now." said Troy, softly. "And I'll
venture to take and keep this in remembrance of you."
She saw him stoop to the grass, pick up the winding
lock which he had severed from her manifold tresses,
twist it round his fingers, unfasten a button in the breast
of his coat, and carefully put it inside. She felt powerless
to withstand or deny him. He was altogether too
much for her, and Bathsheba seemed as one who, facing
a reviving wind, finds it blow so strongly that it stops
the breath.
He drew near and said, "I must be leaving you."
He drew nearer still. A minute later and she saw his
scarlet form disappear amid the ferny thicket, almost in
a flash, like a brand swiftly waved.
That minute's interval had brought the blood beating
into her face, set her stinging as if aflame to the very
hollows of her feet, and enlarged emotion to a compass
which quite swamped thought. It had brought upon
her a stroke resulting, as did that of Moses in Horeh, in
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.
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 Eros, it eventually permeated and coloured
her whole constitution. Bathsheba, though she had too
much understanding to be entirely governed by her
womanliness, had 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 -- except, indeed, in
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 world, it was, after
all, that 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-wall, where your neighbour
is everybody in the tything, and where calculation
formulated self-indulgence of bad, nothing 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's, and 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 way, but '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 Oak,
whose defects were patent to the blindest, and whose
vertues 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
Liddy, but she had only communed with her own heart
concerning "Troy".
All this infatuation Gabriel saw, and was troubled
thereby from the time of his daily journey a-field to the
time of his return, and on to the small hours of many a
night. That he was not beloved had hitherto been his
great that Bathsheba was getting into the toils
was now a sorrow greater than the first, and 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 Boldwood, now absent from
An opportunity occurred one evening when she had
gone for a short walk by a path through the neighbouring
cornfields. It was dusk when Oak, who had not
been far a-field that day, took the same path and met
her returning, quite pensively, as he thought.
The wheat was now tall, and 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 crop, and 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 Oak, turning and following at her heels when
she had brushed somewhat quickly by him.
"Thank you, indeed, but I am not very fearful."
"O no; but there are bad characters about."
"I never meet them."
Now Oak, with marvellous ingenuity, had been going
to introduce the gallant sergeant through the channel of
"bad characters." But all at once the scheme broke
down, it 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 head,
and 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 him, miss. 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 opinion, for
the moment had come. "Well, Miss Everdene." he
said, "putting aside what people say, I 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 subject,
had 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 emphatically, "I 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 him,
and you almost proved that you were not; lately they
have said that you be not, and 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 Troy, miss." 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 said, intractably." Yet I must say
that Sergeant Troy is an educated man, and 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 astray, and what is mirth to the neighbours
is ruin to the woman. When he tries to talk to 'ee again,
why not turn away with a short "Good day," and when
you see him coming one way, turn the other. When
he says anything laughable, fail to see the point
and don't smile, and 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 en, but harmless-uncivil, and so get rid of the
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 this,
th-th-that he is a thoroughly conscientious man -- blunt
sometimes even to rudeness -- but always speaking his
mind about you plain to your face!"
"He is as good as anybody in this parish! He is
very particular, too, about going to church -- yes, he
"I am afraid nobody saw him there. I never
did certainly."
"The reason of that is." she said eagerly, " that 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
itself, but 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
"Don't, don't, don't!" she exclaimed, in a choking
"Are ye not more to me than my own affairs, and
even life!" he went on. "Come, listen to me! I am
six years older than you, and Mr. Boldwood is ten years
older than I, and consider -- I do beg of 'ee to consider
before it is too late -- how safe you would be in his
Oak's allusion to his own love for her lessened, to
some extent, her 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 good, any more
than for his slighting treatment of Troy.
"I wish you to go elsewhere." she commanded, a
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 Oak, calmly. "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 Gabriel, gently.
He wondered that the request should have come at this
moment, for the strife was over, and they were on a
most desolate hill, far from every human habitation, and
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 listener,
and 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 un-
perceived at the beginning of service. Believing that
the little gallery door alluded to was quite disused, he
ascended the external flight of steps at the top of which
it stood, and 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.
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
Troy, who had accompanied her to the very door, still
lingered in her ears. He had bidden her adieu for two
days, which were so he stated, to be spent at Bath in
visiting some friends. He had also kissed her a second
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 Oak, fearing a meeting
between them just then.
She now sank down into a chair, wild and perturbed
by all these new and fevering sequences. Then she
jumped up with a manner of decision, and fetched her
desk from a side table.
In three minutes, without pause or modification, she
had written a letter to Boldwood, at his address beyond
Casterbridge, saying 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 hands,
and so, as it were, setting the act in motion at once, she
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 kitchen, and 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 frankly," What 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
"I hate him too." said Maryann.
"Maryann -- O you perjured woman! How can you
speak that wicked story!" said Bathsheba, excitedly.
"You admired him from your heart only this morning
in the very world, you did. Yes, Maryann, you 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
She flung down the letter and surged back into the
parlour, with a big heart and tearful eyes, Liddy following
"O miss!" said mild Liddy, looking pitifully into
Bathsheba's face. "I am sorry we mistook you so!
did think you cared for him; but I see you don't now."
"Shut the door, Liddy."
Liddy closed the door, and went on: " People always
say such foolery, miss. 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 Liddy, are 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 said,
in reckless abandonment and grief. "O, I love him
to very distraction and misery and agony! Don't be
frightened at me, though 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 God, what 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? There, go 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!"
"Put, 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 off, pacing from fireplace to door, and back
"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. But, Liddy, he CANNOT BE had, as is said. Do you
hear? "
"Yes, miss, yes."
"And you don't believe he is?"
"I don't know what to say, miss." said Liddy, beginning
to cry. "If I say No, you 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 moaned, in a relaxed, desultory
way, heedless of Liddy's presence. "O, how I wish I
had never seen him! Loving is misery for women
always. I shall never forgive God for making me a
woman, and dearly am I beginning to pay for the honour
of owning a pretty face." She freshened and turned to
Liddy suddenly. "Mind this, Lydia Smallbury, if you
repeat anywhere a single word of what l have said to
you inside this closed door, I'll never trust you, or love
you, or have you with me a moment longer -- not a
"I don't want to repeat anything." said Liddy, with
womanly dignity of a diminutive order; "but I don't
wish to stay with you. And, if you please, I'll go at the
end of the harvest, or this week, or to-day.... I don't
see that I deserve to be put upon and stormed at for
nothing!" concluded the small woman, bigly.
"No, no, Liddy; you must stay!" said Bathsheba,
dropping 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
Liddy, impulsively putting up her lips to Bathsheba's,
and kissing her.
Then Bathsheba kissed Liddy, and all was smooth
"I don't often cry, do I, Lidd? but you have made
tears come into my eyes." she said, a smile shining
through the moisture. "Try to think him a good man,
won't you, dear Liddy?"
"I will, miss, indeed."
"He is a sort of steady man in a wild way, you know.
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 Liddy, emphatically, at the same time
bringing a few more tears into her own eyes, not from
any particular necessity, but from an artistic sense of
making herself in keeping with the remainder of the
picture, which seems to influence women at such times.
"I think God likes us to be good friends, don'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 Bathsheba, slightly laughing,
though 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.
"O no, not mannish; but so almighty womanish
that 'tis getting on that way sometimes. Ah! miss." she
said, after having drawn her breath very sadly in and
sent it very sadly out, "I wish I had half your failing
that way. 'Tis a great protection to a poor maid in
these illegit'mate days!"
THE next evening Bathsheba, with the idea of getting
out of the way of Mr. Boldwood in the event of his
returning to answer her note in person, proceeded to
fulfil an engagement made with Liddy some few hours
earlier. Bathsheba's companion, as a gage of their
reconciliation, had been granted a week's holiday to
visit her sister, who 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 Maryann,
that 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-shower, which had refined the air, and
daintily bathed the coat of the land, though all beneath
was dry as ever. Freshness was exhaled in an essence
from the varied contours of bank and hollow, as if the
earth breathed maiden breath; and the pleased birds
were hymning to the scene. Before her, among the
clouds, there was a contrast in the shape of lairs of
fierce light which showed themselves in the neighbourhood
of a hidden sun, lingering on to the farthest northwest
corner of the heavens that this midsummer season
She had walked nearly two miles of her journey,
watching how the day was retreating, and thinking how
the time of deeds was quietly melting into the time of
thought, to give place in its turn to the time of prayer
and sleep, when she beheld advancing over Yalbury hill
the very man she sought so anxiously to elude. Boldwood
was stepping on, not with that quiet tread of reserved
strength which was his customary gait, in 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 girl, far less inconsequent than her
fellows, had 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 sake, and accept him,
though 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 ground, and did not
see Bathsheba till they were less than a stone's throw
apart. He looked up at the sound of her pit-pat, and
his changed appearance sufficiently denoted to her the
depth and strength of the feelings paralyzed by her
"Oh; is it you, Mr. Boldwood?" she faltered, a 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 tongue, and
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 aside, he said, "What, are
you afraid of me?"
Why should you say that?" said Bathsheba.
"I fancied you looked so." said he. "And it is most
strange, because of its contrast with my feeling for you.
She regained self-possession, fixed her eyes calmly,
and 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 you, and 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."
"O, 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 whispered, for 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 impossible, that. In
bare human mercy to a lonely man, don't throw me off
"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
"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! O,
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 emotion, looked him quietly and clearly
in the face, and said in her low, firm voice, " Mr. 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!"
Bathsheba, in spite of her mettle, began 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 trees, sky, any
trivial object before her eyes, whilst his reproaches fell,
but 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 wrong, if you will only tell it me gently! O sir,
will you not kindly forgive me, and look at it
"Cheerfully! Can a man fooled to utter heartburning
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 charges,
and swayed her head desperately, as if to thrust away
the words as they came showering about her ears from
the lips of the trembling man in the climax of life, with
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 ah, Miss Everdene, it 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
that you have a burning heart like mine. You have
love enough, but it is turned into a new channel. I
know where."
The swift music of her heart became hubbub now,
and 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
him, why 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 ask, can
you deny it?"
She delayed the reply, but 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!"
"O 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 her, and she glided
from him, without obviously moving, as she said, "I 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 -- O, Bathsheba -- this is woman's folly
She fired up at once. "You are taking too much
upon yourself!" she said, vehemently. "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 me, I WILL
NOT be put down!"
"You'll chatter with him doubtless about me. Say to
him, "Boldwood would have died for me." Yes, and
you have given way to him, knowing 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 man,
and although Boldwood was, in vehemence and glow,
nearly her own self rendered into another sex,
Bathsheba's cheek quivered. She gasped," Leave 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 said, slowly, and, in spite of her fear,
defiantly. "I am not ashamed to speak the truth."
"Then curse him; and curse him!" said Boldwood,
breaking into a whispered fury." Whilst I would have
given worlds to touch your hand, you have let a rake come
in without right or ceremony and -- kiss you! Heaven's
mercy -- kiss you! ... Ah, a time of his life shall come
when he will have to repent, and think wretchedly of
the pain he has caused another man; and then may he
ache, and wish, and curse, and yearn -- as I do now!"
"Don't, don't, O, don't pray down evil upon him!"
she implored in a miserable cry. "Anything but that --
anything. O, be kind to him, sir, for 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. "Bathsheba,
sweet, lost coquette, pardon me! I've been
blaming you, threatening you, behaving like a churl to
you, when he's the greatest sinner. He stole your dear
heart away with his unfathomable lies! ... lt is a
fortunate thing for him that he's gone back to his
regiment -- that he's away up the country, and not here!
I hope he may not return here just yet. I pray God
he may not come into my sight, for I may be tempted
beyond myself. O, Bathsheba, keep him away -- yes,
keep 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
away, and withdrew, and his form was soon covered over
by the twilight as his footsteps mixed in with the low
hiss of the leafy trees.
Bathsheba, who had been standing motionless as a
model all this latter time, flung her hands to her face,
and 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 incomprehensible,
dreadful. 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 Weatherby in the course of the very next
day or two. Troy had not returned to his distant barracks as
Boldwood and others supposed, but had merely gone to visit
some acquaintance in Bath, and had yet a week or more
remaining to his furlough.
She felt wretchedly certain that if he revisited her just at
this nick of time, and came into contact with Boldwood,a
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 derision, and 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 fer
her distraction, instead of advancing further she
walked up and down, beating
the air with her fingers, pressing on her brow, and 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 cloud,bounding a green and pellucid expanse
in the western sky. Amaranthine glosses came over them then,
and the unresting world wheeled her round to a contrasting
prospect eastward, in the shape of indecisive and palpitating
stars. She gazed upon their silent throes amid the shades of
space, but realised none at all. Her troubled spirit was far
away with Troy.
THE village of Weatherbury was quiet as the graveyard
in its midst, and 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 distinct,
and 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
walls, undulating against the scattered clouds, spreading
through their interstices into unexplored miles of space.
Bathsheba's crannied and mouldy halls were to-night
occupied only by Maryann, Liddy being, as was stated,
with her sister, whom Bathsheba had set out to visit.
A few minutes after eleven had struck, Maryann 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 dream, and the dream to an
awakening, with 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
building, and 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 forelock, and led it to the corner of the
field. Here she could see some object which circumstances
proved to be a vehicle for after a few minutes
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
hour, and the comer could be no less than a thief, who
might probably have known the weakness of the household
on this particular night, and have chosen it on
that account for his daring attempt. Moreover, to
raise suspicion to conviction itself, there were gipsies in!
Weatherbury Bottom.
Maryann, who had been afraid to shout in the robber's
presence, having seen him depart had no fear. She
hastily slipped on her clothes, stumped down the disjointed
staircase with its hundred creaks, ran to Coggan's,
the nearest house, and raised an alarm. Coggan called
Gabriel, who now again lodged in his house as at first,
and 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
"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 home, and none
of us had been answerable!"
"We must ride after." said Gabriel, decisively.
be responsible to Miss Everdene for what we do. Yes,
we'll follow. "
"Faith, I don't see how." said Coggan. "All our
horses are too heavy for that trick except little Poppet,
and 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 again, running
at the same pace, with two halters dangling from his hand.
"Where did you find 'em?" said Coggan, turning
round and leaping upon the hedge without waiting for
an answer.
"Under the eaves. I knew where they were kept,"
said Gabriel, following him. "Coggan, you can ride
bare-backed? there's no time to look for saddles."
"Like a hero!" said Jan.
"Maryann, you go to hed." Gabriel shouted to her
from the top of the hedge.
Springing down into Boldwood's pastures, each
pocketed his halter to hide it from the horses, who,
seeing the men empty-handed, docilely allowed themselves
to he seized by the mane, when the halters
were dexterously slipped on. Having neither bit nor
bridle, Oak 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
astride, and Coggan clambered up by aid of the hank,
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
gone, I wonder?"
"Straight on, as sure as God made little apples,"
said Jan.
"Very well; we are better mounted, and must overdiscovered.
The road-metal grew softer and more
rain had wetted its surface to a somewhat plastic, but
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 Jan, fumbling in his pockets. He struck a light,
and 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 drops,
and they were now so many little scoops of water, which
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 empty, and not small canals, like the others.
The footprints forming this recent impression were full
of information as to pace; they were in equidistant pairs,
three or four feet apart, the 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. Ay,
"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 match, and examined
the ground again.
"'Tis a canter now." he said, throwing away the light.
"A twisty, rickety pace for a gig. The fact is, they overdrove
her at starting, we shall catch 'em yet."
Again they hastened on, and entered Blackmore
Vale. Coggan's watch struck one. When they looked
again the hoof-marks 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 Coggan, cheerfully. "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 before, and the examination
"Hurrah!" said Coggan. "She walked up here --
and well she might. We shall get them in two miles,
for a crown."
They rode three, and listened. No sound was to be
heard save a millpond trickling hoarsely through a
hatch, and 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 had, and 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. Coggan, who, no
less than the panting horses, had latterly shown signs
of weariness, again 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
"Lame." said Oak.
"Yes Dainty is lamed; the near-foot-afore." said
Coggan slowly staring still at the footprints.
"We'll push on." said Gabriel, remounting his humid
Although the road along its greater part had been as
good as any turnpike-road in the country, it was nominally
only a byway. The last turning had brought them
into the high road leading to Bath. Coggan recollected
"We shall have him now!" he exclaimed.
"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."
'Twas said until, against a shady background of foliage,
five white bars were visible, crossing 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 noticed, for on their close approach the
door of the turnpike-house opened, and 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 gig, and saw a
woman -- Bathsheba, his mistress.
On hearing his voice she had turned her face away
from the light. Coggan had, however, caught sight of
her in the meanwhile.
"Why, 'tis mistress-i'll take my oath!" he said,
Bathsheba it certainly was, and she had by this time
done the trick she could do so well in crises not of love,
namely, mask a surprise by coolness of manner.
"Well, Gabriel." she inquired quietly," where are you
"We thought -- --" began Gabriel.
"Bath." she said, taking for her own
use the assurance that Gabriel lacked. "An important
matter made it necessary for me to give up my visit to
liddy, and go off at once. What, then, were 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 Boldwood'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 Coggan, "and 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 said, and 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 grace," Well, 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
"lt 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 quick, clear eyes as she did so --
passed through the gate, and was soon wrapped in the
embowering shades of mysterious summer boughs.
Coggan and Gabriel put about their horses, and, fanned
by the velvety air of this July night, retraced the road
by which they had come.
"A strange vagary, this of hers, isn't it, Oak?" said
Coggan, curiously.
"Yes." said Gabriel, shortly.
"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 entreaties, and Boldwood's denunciations,
and 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 him, and beg him, for her good,
to end his furlough in Bath, and see her and Weatherbury
no more?
It was a picture full of misery, but for a while she
contemplated it firmly, allowing herself, nevertheless,
as girls will, to dwell upon the happy life she would
have enjoyed had Troy been Boldwood, and 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
accurately, hut unfortunately loved him no less in
thinking that he might soon cease to love her -- indeed,
considerably 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 time, even 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 sensible, with a thrill of pleasure, that
by adopting this course for getting rid of him she was
ensuring a meeting with him, at any rate, once more?
It was now dark, and the hour must have been nearly
ten. The only way to accomplish her purpose was to
give up her idea of visiting Liddy at Yalbury, return to
Weatherbury Farm, put the horse into the gig, and drive
at once to Bath. The scheme seemed at first impossible:
the journey was a fearfully heavy one, even for a strong
horse, at her own estimate; and she much underrated
the distance. It was most venturesome for a woman,
at night, and alone.
But could she go on to Liddy's and leave things to
take their course? No, no; anything but that. Bathsheba
was full of a stimulating turbulence, beside which
caution vainly prayed for a hearing. she turned back
towards the village.
Her walk was slow, for she wished not to enter
Weatherbury till the cottagers were in bed, and, particularly,
till Boldwood was secure. Her plan was now
to drive to Bath during the night, see Sergeant Troy in
the morning before he set out to come to her, bid him
farewell, and dismiss him: then to rest the horse
thoroughly (herself to weep the while, she thought),
starting early the next morning on her return journey.
By this arrangement she could trot Dainty gently all
the day, reach 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 place, she
misreckoned the distance of her journey as not much
more than half what it really was. Her idea, however,
she proceeded to carry out, with what initial success we
have already seen.
A WEEK passed, and there were no tidings of Bathsheba;
nor was there any explanation of her Gilpin's
Then a note came for Maryann, stating 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 began, and
all the men were a-field under a monochromatic Lammas
sky, amid the trembling air and short shadows of noon.
Indoors nothing was to be heard save the droning of
blue-bottle flies; out-of-doors the whetting of scythes
and the hiss of tressy oat-ears 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 fence, when 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
Maryann, who 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.
l 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 Gabriel, pausing from whetting
his reaphook.
Oak was not bound by his agreement to assist in the
corn-field; but the harvest month is an anxious time for
a farmer, and the corn was Bathsheba's, so he lent a
"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
Poorgrass, straightening his back; for he, like some of
the others, had a way of resting a while from his labour
on such hot days for reasons preternaturally small; of
which Cain Pall's advent on a week-day in his Sundayclothes
was one of the first magnitude. "Twas a bad leg
allowed me to read the Pilgrim's Progress, and Mark
Clark learnt AliFours in a whitlow."
"Ay, and my father put his arm out of joint to have
time to go courting." said Jan Coggan, in an eclipsing
tone, wiping 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 harvesters,
and was perceived to be carrying a large slice of bread
and ham in one hand, from which he took mouthfuls
as he ran, the other being wrapped in a bandage.
When he came close, his mouth assumed the bell shape,
and he began to cough violently.
"Now, Cainy!" said Gabriel, sternly. "How many
more times must I tell you to keep from running so fast
when you be eating? You'll choke yourself some day,
that's what you'll do, Cain Ball."
"Hok-hok-hok!" replied Cain. "A crumb of my
victuals went the wrong way -- hok-hok!, That's what
'tis, Mister Oak! And I've been visiting to Bath
because I had a felon on my thumb; yes, and l've
seen -- ahok-hok!"
Directly Cain mentioned Bath, they all threw down
their hooks and forks and drew round him. Unfortunately
the erratic crumb did not improve his
narrative powers, and a supplementary hindrance was
that of a sneeze, jerking from his pocket his rather large
watch, which dangled in front of the young man
"Yes." he continued, directing his thoughts to Bath
and letting his eyes follow, "l'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 throat, so 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
"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 shepherd,
"and 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
breath, their informant looked up and down the field
apparently for some clue to it. "Well, I see our mis'ess
and a soldier -- a-ha-a-wk!"
"Damn the boy!" said Gabriel.
"'Tis only my manner, Mister Oak, if ye'll excuse it,"
said Cain Ball, looking reproachfully at Oak, with eyes
drenched in their own dew.
!Here's some cider for him -- that'll cure his throat,"
said Jan Coggan, lifting a flagon of cider, pulling 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 cough, and the
history of his Bath adventures dying with him.
"For my poor self, I always say "please God" afore
I do anything." said Joseph, in an unboastful voice; "and
so should you, Cain Ball. "'Tis a great safeguard, and
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 flagon, and half of what
reached his mouth running down outside his throat,
and half of what ran in going the wrong way, and being
coughed and sneezed around the persons of the gathered
reapers in the form of a cider fog, which 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 Coggan, withdrawing
the flagon.
"The cider went up my nose!" cried Cainy, as soon
as he could speak; "and now 'tis gone down my neck,
and into my poor dumb felon, and 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 hand, too.
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 man,
even to genteel refinery. 'Twas blush, blush with him,
almost 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 Poorgrass, diffidently. "But
we be born to things -- that's true. Yet I would rather
my trifle were hid; though, perhaps, a high nater is a
little high, and at my birth all things were possible to
my Maker, and he may have begrudged no gifts....
But under your bushel, Joseph! under your bushel with
"ee! A strange desire, neighbours, this desire to hide,
and no praise due. Yet there is a Sermon on the
Mount with a calendar of the blessed at the head, and
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
head, which is called by his name to this day -- the Early
Ball. You know 'em, Jan? A Quarrenden grafted on
a Tom Putt, and a Rathe-ripe upon top o' that again.
"'Tis trew 'a used to bide about in a public-house wi' a
woman in a way he had no business to by rights, but
there -- 'a were a clever man in the sense of the term."
"Now then." said Gabriel, impatiently, " what 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 Cainy, firmly, and 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-hour, talking moving things, and 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. "Well,
what did you see besides?"
"Oh, all sorts."
"White as a lily? You are sure 'twas she?
"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
"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
cities, and as such the boy's words should be suffered,
so to speak it."
"And the people of Bath." continued Cain, "never
need to light their fires except as a luxury, for the
water springs up out of the earth ready boiled for
"'Tis true as the light." testified Matthew Moon." I've
heard other navigators say the same thing."
"They drink nothing else there." said Cain," and 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
"And don't victuals spring up as well as drink?"
asked Coggan, twirling his eye.
"No-i own to a blot there in Bath -- a true blot.
God didn't provide 'em with victuals as well as (-
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 Gabriel, returning to the
"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 me,
perhaps you'll bring on my cough, and 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 patience,
and Cainy went on: --
"And there were great large houses, and more
people all the week long than at Weatherbury clubwalking
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
"Our poor Parson Thirdly can't get no money to
buy such rings." said Matthew Moon, thoughtfully.
"And as good a man as ever walked. I don't believe
poor Thirdly have a single one, even of humblest tin or
copper. Such a great ornament as they'd be to him on
a dull afternoon, when he's up in the pulpit lighted by
the wax candles! But 'tis impossible, poor man. Ah,
to think how unequal things be."
"Perhaps he's made of different stuff than to wear
"em." said Gabriel, grimly." Well, that's enough of this.
Go on, Cainy -- quick."
"Oh -- and the new style of parsons wear moustaches
and long beards." continued the illustrious traveller,
"and 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
"Why didn't you say so afore, then?" exclaimed Oak,
with much disappointment.
"Ah." said Matthew Moon, 'she'll wish her cake
dough if so be she's over intimate with that man."
"She's not over intimate with him." said Gabriel,
"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 Matthew, dubiously. "'Twas
only wildness that made him a soldier, and maids rather
like your man of sin."
"Now, Cain Ball." said Gabriel restlessly, "can 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 blood-stone, 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 Cainy, looking from
one to the other with great uneasiness at the spiritual
magnitude of the position. "I don't mind saying 'tis
true, but I don't like to say 'tis damn true, if that's
what you mane."
"Cain, Cain, how can you!" asked Joseph sternly.
"You be asked to swear in a holy manner, and you
swear like wicked Shimei, the son of Gera, who 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
Cain, beginning to cry. "All I mane is that in common
truth 'twas Miss Everdene and Sergeant Troy, but 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 again, and
the old sounds went on. Gabriel, without making any
pretence of being lively, did nothing to show that he
was particularly dull. However, Coggan 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
"That's the very thing I say to myself." said Gabriel.
THAT same evening at dusk Gabriel was leaning over
Coggan's garden-gate, taking 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 gig, and Liddy and her mistress were
the only occupants of the seat. Liddy was asking
questions about the city of Bath, and 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 sound, overpowered all reflection, and
Oak could only luxuriate in the sense of it. All grave
reports were forgotten.
He lingered and lingered on, till there was no
difference between the eastern and western expanses
of sky, and the timid hares began to limp courageously
round the dim hillocks. Gabriel might have been
there an additional half-hour when a dark form walked
slowly by. "Good-night, Gabriel." the passer said.
It was Boldwood. "Good-night, sir." 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 you, sir." 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
he 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 himself, "come to see her
Troy entered the carrier's house, which 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 again, and made as if he were going to call upon
Troy at the carrier's. But as he approached, some
one opened the door and came out. He heard this
person say " Good-night" to the inmates, and the voice
was Troy's. "This was strange, coming so immediately
after his arrival. Boldwood, however, hastened 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
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."
The tone in which this word was uttered was all
that had been wanted to bring Boldwood to the
"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 Troy, moving
"Now look here." said Boldwood, standing 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 frame, then 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
"Very well, I'll listen with pleasure." said Troy,
placing his bag on the ground, "only speak low, for
somebody or other may overhear us in the farmhouse
"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
"I suppose I ought. Indeed, l wish to, but I
Troy was about to utter something hastily; he then
checked himself and said, "I 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 continued, "I 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.
The tone in which this word was uttered was all
Troy heard the dull determination in Boldwood's
voice, looked at his stalwart frame, then at the thick
plainly; and understand, I don't wish to enter into the
"I was engaged to be married to Miss Everdene,"
said Boldwood, "but 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.
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
position, his aims, and 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 narrowness, and love, though added
emotion, is subtracted capacity. Boldwood exemplified
this to an abnormal degree: he knew nothing of Fanny
Robin's circumstances or whereabouts, he knew nothing
of Troy's possibilities, yet that was what he said.
"I like Fanny best." said Troy; "and if, as you say,
Miss Everdene is out of my reach, why I have all to
gain by accepting your money, and marrying Fan. But
she's only a servant."
"Never mind -- do you agree to my arrangement?"
"I do."
"Ah!" said Boldwood, in a more elastic voice. "O,
Troy, if you like her best, why then did you step in here
and injure my happiness?"
"I love Fanny best now." said Troy. "But
Bathsh -- -- Miss Everdene inflamed me, and 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 Boldwood, " and 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 sergeant,
taking 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."
"l had thought of that, and l 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
"By George -- 'tis she." he continued. "I must go
on and meet her."
"She -- who?"
"Bathsheba -- out alone at this time o' night!" said
Boldwood in amazement, and 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."
"O 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 me, and mark what you hear."
The light footstep came closer, halting occasionally,
as if the walker listened for a sound. Troy whistled a
double note in a soft, fluty tone.
"Come to that, is it!" murmured Boldwood, uneasily.
"You promised silence." said Troy.
"I promise again."
Troy stepped forward.
"Frank, dearest, is that you?" The tones were
"O God!" said Boldwood.
"Yes." said Troy to her.
"How late you are." she continued, tenderly. "Did
you come by the carrier? I listened and heard his
wheels entering the village, but it was some time ago,
and I had almost given you up, Frank."
"I was sure to come." said Frank. "You knew I
should, did you not?"
"Well, I thought you would." she said, playfully;
"and, Frank, it 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." But, dear me, I. had better
go back for my bag, because my slippers and brush and
comb are in it; you run home whilst I fetch it, and 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 lips, and
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 soldier, mockingly.
"No, no; wait a minute. I want to say more to
you -- more to you!" said Boldwood, in a hoarse whisper.
"Now." said Troy," you 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 him, and
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
"Well, what do you mean?" said the farmer.
Give me breath." said Troy.
Boldwood loosened his hand, saying, "By 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
soldier, and flung him back against the hedge. "Devil,
you torture me!" said he.
Troy rebounded like a ball, and was about to make
a dash at the farmer; but he checked himself, saying
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,
mechanically, with 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 Boldwood,
in nervous anxiety, and, Troy, she will make a
good wife; and, indeed, she 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 Boldwood, imploringly," I'll do anything
for you, only don't desert her; pray don't desert her,
"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 instinct, and 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."
"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 said, "And 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."
Boldwood, more like a somnambulist than a wakeful
man, pulled out the large canvas bag he carried by way
of a purse, and 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 Boldwood, hastily. "Here
is the sum, and if you'll come to my house we'll write
out the agreement for the remainder, and the terms
"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 entrance, Troy said, "Wait here a
moment." Opening the door, he glided inside, leaving
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
inside, carrying 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 doorpost, and put the candle close.
"That's the paragraph." he said, placing his finger on
a line.
Boldwood looked and read --
"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., H.D., of Weatherbury,
and sergeant with Dragoon Guards, to Bathsheba, only
surviving daughter of the late Mr, John Everdene, of
"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.
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 Boldwood, in a hiss.
"Anyhow I won't have it." said Troy, contemptuously.
He wrapped the packet of gold in the notes, and 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
door, and locked himself in.
Throughout the whole of that night Boldwood's dark
downs of Weatherbury like an unhappy Shade in the
Mournful Fields by Acheron.
IT was very early the next morning -- a time of sun and
dew. The confused beginnings of many birds' songs
spread into the healthy air, and 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
colour, and all the shadows were attenuated as to form.
The creeping plants about the old manor-house were
bowed with rows of heavy water drops, which 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 cross, and went on together
to the fields. They were yet barely in view of their
mistress's house, when 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
bush, now beginning to be enriched with black bunches
of fruit, and they paused before emerging from its
A handsome man leaned idly from the lattice. He
looked east and then west, in the manner of one who
makes a first morning survey. The man was Sergeant
Troy. His red jacket was loosely thrown on, but not
buttoned, and he had altogether the relaxed bearing of
a soldier taking his ease.
Coggan spoke first, looking quietly at the window.
"She has married him!" he said.
Gabriel had previously beheld the sight, and he now
stood with his back turned, making 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 us, Oak,
how white your face is; you look like a corpse!"
"Do I?" said Oak, with a faint smile.
"Lean on the gate: I'll wait a bit."
"All right, all right."
They stood by the gate awhile, Gabriel listlessly
staring at the ground. His mind sped into the future,
and saw there enacted in years of leisure the scenes o
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 Bath, owing
to her miscalculating the distance: that the horse had
broken down, and that she had been more than two
days getting there. It was not Bathsheba's way to do
things furtively. With all her faults, she 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 stili
ness itself, so 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 shouted, in a cheery voice,
when 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 it, and yet keep the man civil."
Gabriel soon decided too that, since the deed was
done, to put the best face upon the matter would be the
greatest kindness to her he loved.
"Good morning, Sergeant Troy." he returned, in a
ghastly voice.
"A rambling, gloomy house this." said Troy, smiling.
"Why -- they may not be married!" suggested Coggan.
"Perhaps she's not there."
Gabriel shook his head. The soldier turned a little
towards the east, and 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 room, to assist his ideas of improvement in this
direction. Gabriel and Coggan began to move on.
"Oh, Coggan." said Troy, as 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 Troy, lightly. "Well,
I 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 shall, of course, keep on just as
friendly terms as usual. I'm not a proud man: nobody
is ever able to say that of Sergeant Troy. However,
what is must be, and here's half-a-crown to drink my
health, men."
Troy threw the coin dexterously across the front plot
and over the fence towards Gabriel, who shunned it in
its fall, his face turning to an angry red. Coggan
twirled his eye, edged forward, and caught the money
in its ricochet upon the road.
"very well-you keep it, Coggan." said Gabriel with
disdain and almost fiercely. "As for me, I'll do without
gifts from him!"
"Don't show it too much." said Coggan, musingly.
"For if he's married to her, mark my words, he'll buy
his discharge and be our master here. Therefore 'tis
well to say `Friend' outwardly, though 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 horseman, whom they had for some time seen in
the distance, now 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 farmer,
just checked their paces to discover if they were wanted,
and finding they were not stood back to let him pass on.
The only signs of the terrible sorrow Boldwood had
been combating through the night, and was combating
now, were the want of colour in his well-defined face,
the enlarged appearance of the veins in his forehead
and temples, and the sharper lines about his mouth.
The horse bore him away, and the very step of the
animal seemed significant of dogged despair. Gabriel, for
a minute, rose above his own grief in noticing Boldwood's.
He saw the square figure sitting erect upon the horse,
the head turned to neither side, the elbows steady by
the hips, the brim of the hat level and undisturbed in
its onward glide, until 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; and, as in laughter there are
more dreadful phases than in tears, so was there in the
steadiness of this agonized man an expression deeper
than a cry.
ONE night, at the end of August, when Bathsheba's
experiences as a married woman were still new, and
when the weather was yet dry and sultry, a man stood
motionless in the stockyard of Weatherbury Upper
Farm, looking at the moon and sky.
The night had a sinister aspect. A heated breeze
from the south slowly fanned the summits of lofty
objects, and in the sky dashes of buoyant cloud were
sailing in a course at right angles to that of another
stratum, neither of them in the direction of the breeze
below. The moon, as seen through these films, had
a lurid metallic look. The fields were sallow with the
impure light, and all were tinged in monochrome, as
if beheld through stained glass. The same evening
the sheep had trailed homeward head to tail, the
behaviour of the rooks had been confused, and the
horses had moved with timidity and caution.
Thunder was imminent, and, taking some secondary
appearances into consideration, it 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
ricks, massive 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
tambourine, and the regular jigging of many feet, grew
more distinct. He came close to the large doors, one
of which stood slightly ajar, and looked in.
The central space, together with the recess at one
end, was emptied of all incumbrances, and this area,
covering about two-thirds of the whole, was appropriated
for the gathering, the remaining end, which was piled
to the ceiling with oats, being screened off with sailcloth.
Tufts and garlands of green foliage decorated
the walls, beams, and extemporized chandeliers, and
immediately opposite to Oak a rostrum had been
erected, bearing a table and chairs. Here sat three
fiddlers, and beside them stood a frantic man with his
hair on end, perspiration streaming down his cheeks,
and a tambourine quivering in his hand.
The dance ended, and 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 Bathsheba, who 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 fiddler, "I'll venture to name that
the right and proper thing is "The Soldier's Joy" --
there being a gallant soldier married into the farm --
hey, my sonnies, and gentlemen all?"
"It shall be "The Soldier's Joy," exclaimed a
"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 Guards, to attend
to the new duties awaiting me here, I 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" has, too, an
additional charm, in being so admirably adapted to
the tambourine aforesaid -- no mean instrument in the
hands of a performer who understands the proper
convulsions, spasms, St. vitus's dances, and fearful
frenzies necessary when exhibiting its tones in their
highest perfection.
The immortal tune ended, a fine DD rolling forth
from the bass-viol with the sonorousness of a cannonade,
and Gabriel delayed his entry no longer. He avoided
Bathsheba, and got as near as possible to the platform,
where Sergeant Troy was now seated, drinking brandyand-
water, though the others drank without exception
cider and ale. Gabriel could not easily thrust himself
within speaking distance of the sergeant, and he sent
a message, asking him to come down for a moment.
"The sergeant said he could not attend.
"Will you tell him, then." said Gabriel, "that 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?"
"M. Troy says it will not rain." returned the
messenger, "and he cannot stop to talk to you about
such fidgets."
In Juxtaposition with Troy, Oak had a melancholy
tendency to look like a candle beside gas, and ill at
ease, he went out again, thinking he would go home;
for, under the circumstances, he 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 arm, and, with
upturned pale face, said imploringly," No -- 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 contemptuously, and
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 feather, let them look elsewhere for a
winter's work."
Bathsheba indignantly left the barn, followed by
all the women and children. The musicians, not
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 boxingglove.
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
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
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.
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?"Never, if I can prevent it!"
said Gabriel.
Such was the argument that Oak set outwardly before
him. But man, even to himself, is a palimpsest, having
an ostensible writing, and 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 within, and he would have passed on in the
belief that the party had broken up, had not a dim
light, yellow as saffron by contrast with the greenish
whiteness outside, streamed 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 sockets, and in some cases the
leaves tied about them were scorched. Many of the
lights had quite gone out, others smoked and stank,
grease dropping from them upon the floor. Here,
under the table, and leaning against forms and chairs
in every conceivable attitude except the perpendicular,!"
were the wretched persons of all the work-folk, 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 Troy, leaning back
in a chair. Coggan was on his back, with his mouth
open, huzzing forth snores, as 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 hedgehog,
apparently 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 table,
a water-jug being overturned, from which a small rill,
after tracing its course with marvellous precision down
the centre of the long table, fell into the neck of the
unconscious Mark Clark, in a steady, monotonous drip,
like the dripping of a stalactite in a cave.
Gabriel glanced hopelessly at the group, which, with
one or two exceptions, composed all the able-bodied
men upon the farm. He saw at once that if the ricks
were to be saved that night, or even the next morning,
he 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
Oak went to the recumbent form of Matthew Moon,
who usually undertook the rough thatching of the homestead,
and shook him. The shaking was without effect.
Gabriel shouted in his ear, "where's your thatchingbeetle
and rick-stick and spars?"
"Under the staddles." said Moon, mechanically, with
the unconscious promptness of a medium.
Gabriel let go his head, and it dropped upon the
floor like a bowl. He then went to Susan Tall's
"where's the key of the granary?"
No answer. The question was repeated, with 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 just, the 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 hand, that drinking should be
the bond of their union, that 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
ale, it was no wonder that they had succumbed, one
and all, with extraordinary uniformity, after 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 lights, that the barn might
not be endangered, closed the door upon the men in
their deep and oblivious sleep, and went again into the
lone night. A hot breeze, as if breathed from the
parted lips of some dragon about to swallow the globe,
fanned him from the south, while directly opposite in
the north rose a grim misshapen body of cloud, in 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 sky, as if in terror of the large
cloud, like a young brood gazed in upon by some
Going on to the village, Oak flung a small stone
against the window of Laban Tall's bedroom, expecting
Susan to open it; but nobody stirred. He went round
to the back door, which had been left unfastened for
Laban's entry, and passed in to the foot of the staircase.
"Mrs. Tall, I've come for the key of the granary,
to get at the rick-cloths." said Oak, in a stentorian
"Is that you?" said Mrs. Susan Tall, half 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 key, without waiting to hear the
conclusion of the tirade. Ten minutes later his lonely
figure might have been seen dragging four large waterproof
coverings across the yard, and 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 open, and there were no more
cloths. Oak looked under the staddles and found a
fork. He mounted the third pile of wealth and began
operating, adopting the plan of sloping the upper
sheaves one over the other; and, in addition, filling
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 two, provided always that there was not
much wind.
Next came the barley. This it was only possible to
protect by systematic thatching. Time went on, and
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 breeze, which 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 spars, and the rustle of thatch in the intervals.
A LIGHT flapped over the scene, as if reflected from
phosphorescent wings crossing the sky, and a rumble
filled the air. It was the first move of the approaching
The second peal was noisy, with comparatively little
visible lightning. Gabriel saw a candle shining in Bathsheba's
bedroom, and 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 silver, and 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 hedge, bush,
and tree was distinct as in a line engraving. In a
paddock in the same direction was a herd of heifers,
and the forms of these were visible at this moment in
the act of galloping about in the wildest and maddest
confusion, flinging their heels and tails high into the air,
their heads to earth. A poplar in the immediate foreground
was like an ink stroke on burnished tin. Then
the picture vanished, leaving the darkness so intense
that Gabriel worked entirely by feeling with his hands.
He had stuck his ricking-rod, or poniard, as it was
indifferently called -- a long iron lance, polished by
handling -- into the stack, used to support the sheaves
instead of the support called a groom used on houses,
A blue light appeared in the zenith, and 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 -- smart, clear, and short,
Gabriel felt his position to be anything but a safe one,
and he resolved to descend.
Not a drop of rain had fallen as yet. He wiped his
weary brow, and 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 risk, when important
and urgent labour could not be carried on without
such risk? He resolved to stick to the stack. However,
he took a precaution. Under the staddles was
a long tethering chain, used to prevent the escape of
errant horses. This he carried up the ladder, and
sticking his rod through the clog at one end, allowed
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 flash, with the spring of a serpent
and the shout of a fiend. It was green as an
emerald, and the reverberation was stunning. What
was this the light revealed to him? In the open
ground before him, as he looked over the ridge of
the rick, was 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."
"O, 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
now, and 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 said, resolutely. She instantly
took a sheaf upon her shoulder, clambered up close to
his heels, placed it behind the rod, and 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 shapes, black 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 him, and 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 exclaimed, and clutched him by
the sleeve. Gabriel turned, and steadied her on her
aerial perch by holding her arm. At the same moment,
while he was still reversed in his attitude, there was
more light, and he saw, as it were, a copy of the tall
poplar tree on the hill drawn in black on the wall of
the barn. It was the shadow of that tree, thrown across
by a secondary flash in the west.
The next flare came. Bathsheba was on the ground
now, shouldering another sheaf, and she bore its dazzle
without flinching -- thunder and ali-and again ascended
with the load. There was then a silence everywhere
for four or five minutes, and the crunch of the spars,
as Gabriel hastily drove them in, could again be distinctly
heard. He thought the crisis of the storm had passed.
But there came a burst of light.
"Hold on!" said Gabriel, taking the sheaf from her
shoulder, and grasping her arm again.
Heaven opened then, indeed. The flash was almost
too novel for its inexpressibly dangerous nature to be
at once realized, and they could only comprehend the
magnificence of its beauty. It sprang from east, west,
north, south, and was a perfect dance of death. The
forms of skeletons appeared in the air, shaped with
blue fire for bones -- dancing, leaping, striding, racing
around, and mingling altogether in unparalleled confusion.
With these were intertwined undulating snakes of
green, and behind these was a broad mass of lesser light.
Simultaneously came from every part of the tumbling
sky what may be called a shout; since, though no shout
ever came near it, it 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
rod, to run invisibly down it, down the chain, and into
the earth. Gabriel was almost blinded, and he could
feel Bathsheba's warm arm tremble in his hand -- a
sensation novel and thrilling enough; but love, life,
everything human, seemed small and trifling in such
close juxtaposition with an infuriated universe.
Oak had hardly time to gather up these impressions
into a thought, and to see how strangely the red feather
of her hat shone in this light, when the tall tree on the
hill before mentioned seemed on fire to a white heat,
and a new one among these terrible voices mingled with
the last crash of those preceding. It was a stupefying
blast, harsh and pitiless, and it fell upon their ears in a
dead, flat 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 tall, straight stem, a
huge riband of bark being apparently flung off. The
other portion remained erect, and 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 silent, and black as a cave
in Hinnom.
"We had a narrow escape!" said Gabriel, hurriedly.
"You had better go down."
Bathsheba said nothing; but he could distinctly hear
her rhythmical pants, and the recurrent rustle of the
sheaf beside her in response to her frightened pulsations.
She descended the ladder, and, on second thoughts, he
followed her. The darkness was now impenetrable by
the sharpest vision. They both stood still at the
bottom, side 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
"I think so too." said Bathsheba. "Though there
are multitudes of gleams, look!"
The sky was now filled with an incessant light,
frequent repetition melting into complete continuity, as
an unbroken sound results from the successive strokes
on a gong.
"Nothing serious." said he. "I cannot understand
no rain falling. But Heaven be praised, it 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. O, why are not some of the others
"They would have been here if they could." said Oak,
in a hesitating way.
"O, I know it all -- all." she said, adding slowly:
"They are all asleep in the barn, in a drunken sleep, and
my husband among them. That's it, is 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 again, miss -- ma'am, and hand up a
few more; it would save much time."
Then Oak went back again, ascended to the top,
stepped off the ladder for greater expedition, and went
on thatching. She followed, but without a sheaf
"Gabriel." she said, in 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 stack, her feet gathered
up beneath her, and resting on the top round of the
"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 answered, somewhat
surprised at the abruptness with which this new subject
was broached.
"And others thought so, too?"
"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 voice, and waited a
moment, as if to gather breath. "And then, between
jealousy and distraction, I 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 -- indeed, I 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 ladder, and the work proceeded.
Gabriel soon perceived a languor in the movements of
his mistress up and down, and he said to her, gently 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 Bathsheba, in a
flagging cadence. "But O, if 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 said, gratefully.! Thank you
for your devotion, a thousand times, Gabriel! Goodnight-
i know you are doing your very best for me."
She diminished in the gloom, and vanished, and he
heard the latch of the gate fall as she passed through.
He worked in a reverie now, musing upon her story, and
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.
IT was now five o'clock, and 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 wheat-stacks was now whirled fantastically
aloft, and had to be replaced and weighted with
some rails that lay near at hand. This done, Oak slaved
away again at the barley. A huge drop of rain smote
his face, the wind snarled round every corner, the trees
rocked to the bases of their trunks, and the twigs clashed
in strife. Driving in spars at any point and on any
system, inch by inch he covered more and more safely
from ruin this distracting impersonation of seven hundred
pounds. "The rain came on in earnest, and 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 true, and dismissed
his reflections.
It was about seven o'clock in the dark leaden
morning when Gabriel came down from the last stack,
and thankfully exclaimed, "It is done!" He was
drenched, weary, and sad, and yet not so sad as drenched
and weary, for he was cheered by a sense of success in
a good cause.
Faint sounds came from the barn, and he looked
that way. Figures stepped singly and in pairs through
the doors -- all walking awkwardly, and abashed, save
the foremost, who wore a red jacket, and advanced
with his hands in his pockets, whistling. The others
shambled after with a conscience-stricken 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 village, Troy, their leader, entering the farmhouse.
Not a single one of them had turned his face to the
ricks, or apparently bestowed one thought upon their
Soon Oak too went homeward, by 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 ill, Oak." he said then, desultorily
regarding his companion.
"I am tired. You look strangely altered, sir."
"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 Boldwood,
shortly. "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."
"O yes." Boldwood added, after an interval of
silence: " What did you ask, Oak?"
"Your ricks are all covered before this time?"
"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,
"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 time, within the same
parish, a greater waste had been going on, uncomplained
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 marriage, here was a man
who had suffered more, when 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 Gabriel, not knowing enough of the full depths of
Boldwood's love to keep silence on the farmer's account,
and determined not to evade discipline by doing so on
his own. "However, it is so sometimes, and 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
"O 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. "O, Gabriel." he continued, "I
am weak and foolish, and 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. Yes,
He prepared a gourd to shade me, and 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
drifted, and walked on again, resuming his usual reserve,
"No, Gabriel." he resumed, with 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 occasionally, but no woman
ever had power over me for any length of time. Well,
good morning; I can trust you not to mention to others
what has passed between us two here."
ON the turnpike road, between Casterbridge and
Weatherbury, and about three miles from the former
which pervade the highways of this undulating part of
South Wessex. I 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 gig,
whilst walking beside her in farmer's marketing suit
of unusually fashionable cut was an erect, well-made
young man. Though on foot, he held the reins and
whip, and occasionally aimed light cuts at the horse's
ear with the end of the lash, as a recreation. This
man was her husband, formerly Sergeant Troy, who,
having bought his discharge with Bathsheba's money,
was gradually transforming himself into a farmer of a
spirited and very modern school. People of unalterable
ideas still insisted upon calling him "Sergeant"
hen they met him, which was in some degree owing
to his having still retained the well-shaped moustache
of his military days, and 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 see, it altered
all the chances? To speak like a book I once read,
wet weather is the narrative, and fine days are the
episodes, of our country's history; now, isn't that
"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. Aye,
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 Bathsheba, sadly --
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? O, Frank, 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 tears, but 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 exclaimed, with 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
speech, some 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 cutting, so that she was very near the
husband and wife before she became visible. Troy had
turned towards the gig to remount, and whilst putting
his foot on the step-the woman passed behind him.
Though the overshadowing trees and the approach
of eventide enveloped them in gloom, Bathsheba could
see plainly enough to discern the extreme poverty of
the woman's garb, and the sadness of her face.
"Please, sir, do you know at what time Casterbridge
Union-house closes at night?"
The woman said these words to Troy over his
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 said, slowly --
"I don't know."
The woman, on hearing him speak, quickly looked
up, examined the side of his face, and 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 cry,
and fell down.
"O, poor thing!" exclaimed Bathsheba, instantly
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 horse, gig, and 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 woman, in a strangely
gentle, yet hurried voice, as he lifted her up.
"I feared to."
"Have you any money?"
"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."
he 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 hill, Bathsheba turned her head. The
woman was upon her feet, and Bathsheba saw her
withdrawing from Troy, and going feebly down the
hill by the third milestone from Casterbridge. Troy
then came on towards his wife, stepped into the gig,
took the reins from her hand, and without making any
observation whipped the horse into a trot. He was
rather agitated.
"Do you know who that woman was?" said Bathsheba,
looking searchingly into his face.
"I do." he said, looking boldly back into hers.
"I thought you did." said she, with angry hauteur,
and 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
flank, which caused the animal to start forward at a
wild pace. No more was said.
FOR a considerable time the woman walked on. Her
steps became feebler, and she strained her eyes to look
afar upon the naked road, now indistinct amid the
penumbrae of night. At length her onward walk
dwindled to the merest totter, and 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 sky, shutting
out every speck of heaven; and a distant halo which
hung over the town of Casterbridge was visible against
the black concave, the luminosity appearing the
brighter by its great contrast with the circumscribing
darkness. Towards this weak, soft 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 hour, one, in a small, attenuated tone. After
midnight the voice of a clock seems to lose in breadth
as much as in length, and to diminish its sonorousness
to a thin falsetto.
Afterwards a light -- two lights -- arose from the remote
shade, and 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 woman, and threw
her face into vivid relieff. The face was young in the
groundwork, old in the finish; the general contours
were flexuous and childlike, but the finer lineaments
had begun to be sharp and thin.
The pedestrian stood up, apparently with revived
determination, and looked around. The road appeared
to be familiar to her, and 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 interval, then bestirred herself, and again pursued
her way. For a slight distance she bore up bravely,
afterwards 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 rustle, not a breeze, not the faintest
clash of twigs to keep her company. The woman
looked over the gate, opened it, and went in. Close
to the entrance stood a row of faggots, bound and unbound,
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 suspension, of a previous motion. Her
attitude was that of a person who listens, either to the
external world of sound, or to the imagined discourse of
thought. A close criticism might have detected signs
proving that she was intent on the latter alternative.
Moreover, as was shown by what followed, she 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 aurora, and by feeling
with her hands, the woman selected two sticks from the
heaps. These sticks were nearly straight to the height
of three or four feet, where each branched into a fork
like the letter Y. She sat down, snapped off the small
upper twigs, and carried the remainder with her into
the road. She placed one of these forks under each
arm as a crutch, tested 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 feet,
and the tap of her sticks upon the highway, were all the
sounds that came from the traveller now. She had
passed the last milestone by a good long distance, and
began to look wistfully towards the bank as if calculating
upon another milestone soon. The crutches, though
so very useful, had their limits of power. Mechanism
only transfers labour, being powerless to supersede it,
and the original amount of exertion was not cleared
away; it was thrown into the body and arms. She was
exhausted, and each swing forward became fainter. At
last she swayed sideways, and fell.
Here she lay, a shapeless heap, for ten minutes and
more. The morning wind began to boom dully over
the flats, and to move afresh dead leaves which had
lain still since yesterday. The woman desperately
turned round upon her knees, and next rose to her
feet. Steadying herself by the help of one crutch, she
essayed a step, then another, then a third, using the

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