Tantissimi classici della letteratura e della cultura politica,
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Abbe Prevost - MANON LESCAUT
Alcott, Louisa M. - AN OLDFASHIONED GIRL
Alcott, Louisa M. - LITTLE MEN
Alcott, Louisa M. - LITTLE WOMEN
Alcott, Louisa May - JACK AND JILL
Alcott, Louisa May - LIFE LETTERS AND JOURNALS
Andersen, Hans Christian - FAIRY TALES
Anonimo - BEOWULF
Ariosto, Ludovico - ORLANDO ENRAGED
Aurelius, Marcus - MEDITATIONS
Austen, Jane - EMMA
Austen, Jane - MANSFIELD PARK
Austen, Jane - NORTHANGER ABBEY
Austen, Jane - PERSUASION
Austen, Jane - PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
Austen, Jane - SENSE AND SENSIBILITY
Authors, Various - LETTERS OF ABELARD AND HELOISE
Authors, Various - SELECTED ENGLISH LETTERS
Autori Vari - THE WORLD ENGLISH BIBLE
Bacon, Francis - THE ADVANCEMENT OF LEARNING
Balzac, Honore de - EUGENIE GRANDET
Balzac, Honore de - FATHER GORIOT
Baroness Orczy - THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL
Barrie, J. M. - PETER AND WENDY
Barrie, James M. - PETER PAN
Bierce, Ambrose - THE DEVIL'S DICTIONARY
Blake, William - SONGS OF INNOCENCE AND EXPERIENCE
Boccaccio, Giovanni - DECAMERONE
Brent, Linda - INCIDENTS IN THE LIFE OF A SLAVE GIRL
Bronte, Charlotte - JANE EYRE
Bronte, Charlotte - VILLETTE
Buchan, John - GREENMANTLE
Buchan, John - MR STANDFAST
Buchan, John - THE 39 STEPS
Bunyan, John - THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS
Burckhardt, Jacob - THE CIVILIZATION OF THE RENAISSANCE IN ITALY
Burnett, Frances H. - A LITTLE PRINCESS
Burnett, Frances H. - LITTLE LORD FAUNTLEROY
Burnett, Frances H. - THE SECRET GARDEN
Butler, Samuel - EREWHON
Carlyle, Thomas - PAST AND PRESENT
Carlyle, Thomas - THE FRENCH REVOLUTION
Cellini, Benvenuto - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Cervantes - DON QUIXOTE
Chaucer, Geoffrey - THE CANTERBURY TALES
Chesterton, G. K. - A SHORT HISTORY OF ENGLAND
Chesterton, G. K. - THE BALLAD OF THE WHITE HORSE
Chesterton, G. K. - THE INNOCENCE OF FATHER BROWN
Chesterton, G. K. - THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH
Chesterton, G. K. - THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY
Chesterton, G. K. - THE WISDOM OF FATHER BROWN
Chesterton, G. K. - TWELVE TYPES
Chesterton, G. K. - WHAT I SAW IN AMERICA
Chesterton, Gilbert K. - HERETICS
Chopin, Kate - AT FAULT
Chopin, Kate - BAYOU FOLK
Chopin, Kate - THE AWAKENING AND SELECTED SHORT STORIES
Clark Hall, John R. - A CONCISE ANGLOSAXON DICTIONARY
Clarkson, Thomas - AN ESSAY ON THE SLAVERY AND COMMERCE OF THE HUMAN SPECIES
Clausewitz, Carl von - ON WAR
Coleridge, Herbert - A DICTIONARY OF THE FIRST OR OLDEST WORDS IN THE ENGLISH
Coleridge, S. T. - COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS
Coleridge, S. T. - HINTS TOWARDS THE FORMATION OF A MORE COMPREHENSIVE THEORY
Coleridge, S. T. - THE RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER
Collins, Wilkie - THE MOONSTONE
Collodi - PINOCCHIO
Conan Doyle, Arthur - A STUDY IN SCARLET
Conan Doyle, Arthur - MEMOIRS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE SIGN OF THE FOUR
Conrad, Joseph - HEART OF DARKNESS
Conrad, Joseph - LORD JIM
Conrad, Joseph - NOSTROMO
Conrad, Joseph - THE NIGGER OF THE NARCISSUS
Conrad, Joseph - TYPHOON
Crane, Stephen - LAST WORDS
Crane, Stephen - MAGGIE
Crane, Stephen - THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE
Crane, Stephen - WOUNDS IN THE RAIN
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: HELL
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: PARADISE
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: PURGATORY
Darwin, Charles - THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF CHARLES DARWIN
Darwin, Charles - THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES
Defoe, Daniel - A GENERAL HISTORY OF THE PYRATES
Defoe, Daniel - A JOURNAL OF THE PLAGUE YEAR
Defoe, Daniel - CAPTAIN SINGLETON
Defoe, Daniel - MOLL FLANDERS
Defoe, Daniel - ROBINSON CRUSOE
Defoe, Daniel - THE COMPLETE ENGLISH TRADESMAN
Defoe, Daniel - THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF ROBINSON CRUSOE
Deledda, Grazia - AFTER THE DIVORCE
Dickens, Charles - A CHRISTMAS CAROL
Dickens, Charles - A TALE OF TWO CITIES
Dickens, Charles - BLEAK HOUSE
Dickens, Charles - DAVID COPPERFIELD
Dickens, Charles - DONBEY AND SON
Dickens, Charles - GREAT EXPECTATIONS
Dickens, Charles - HARD TIMES
Dickens, Charles - LETTERS VOLUME 1
Dickens, Charles - LITTLE DORRIT
Dickens, Charles - MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT
Dickens, Charles - NICHOLAS NICKLEBY
Dickens, Charles - OLIVER TWIST
Dickens, Charles - OUR MUTUAL FRIEND
Dickens, Charles - PICTURES FROM ITALY
Dickens, Charles - THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD
Dickens, Charles - THE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP
Dickens, Charles - THE PICKWICK PAPERS
Dickinson, Emily - POEMS
Dostoevsky, Fyodor - CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor - THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV
Du Maurier, George - TRILBY
Dumas, Alexandre - THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO
Dumas, Alexandre - THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK
Dumas, Alexandre - THE THREE MUSKETEERS
Eliot, George - DANIEL DERONDA
Eliot, George - MIDDLEMARCH
Eliot, George - SILAS MARNER
Eliot, George - THE MILL ON THE FLOSS
Engels, Frederick - THE CONDITION OF THE WORKING-CLASS IN ENGLAND IN 1844
Equiano - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Esopo - FABLES
Fenimore Cooper, James - THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS
Fielding, Henry - TOM JONES
France, Anatole - THAIS
France, Anatole - THE GODS ARE ATHIRST
France, Anatole - THE LIFE OF JOAN OF ARC
France, Anatole - THE SEVEN WIVES OF BLUEBEARD
Frank Baum, L. - THE PATCHWORK GIRL OF OZ
Frank Baum, L. - THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ
Franklin, Benjamin - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Frazer, James George - THE GOLDEN BOUGH
Freud, Sigmund - DREAM PSYCHOLOGY
Galsworthy, John - COMPLETE PLAYS
Galsworthy, John - STRIFE
Galsworthy, John - STUDIES AND ESSAYS
Galsworthy, John - THE FIRST AND THE LAST
Galsworthy, John - THE FORSYTE SAGA
Galsworthy, John - THE LITTLE MAN
Galsworthy, John - THE SILVER BOX
Galsworthy, John - THE SKIN GAME
Gaskell, Elizabeth - CRANFORD
Gaskell, Elizabeth - MARY BARTON
Gaskell, Elizabeth - NORTH AND SOUTH
Gaskell, Elizabeth - THE LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE
Gay, John - THE BEGGAR'S OPERA
Gentile, Maria - THE ITALIAN COOK BOOK
Gilbert and Sullivan - PLAYS
Goethe - FAUST
Gogol - DEAD SOULS
Goldsmith, Oliver - SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER
Goldsmith, Oliver - THE VICAR OF WAKEFIELD
Grahame, Kenneth - THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS
Grimm, Brothers - FAIRY TALES
Harding, A. R. - GINSENG AND OTHER MEDICINAL PLANTS
Hardy, Thomas - A CHANGED MAN AND OTHER TALES
Hardy, Thomas - FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD
Hardy, Thomas - JUDE THE OBSCURE
Hardy, Thomas - TESS OF THE D'URBERVILLES
Hardy, Thomas - THE MAYOR OF CASTERBRIDGE
Hartley, Cecil B. - THE GENTLEMEN'S BOOK OF ETIQUETTE
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - LITTLE MASTERPIECES
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - THE SCARLET LETTER
Henry VIII - LOVE LETTERS TO ANNE BOLEYN
Henry, O. - CABBAGES AND KINGS
Henry, O. - SIXES AND SEVENS
Henry, O. - THE FOUR MILLION
Henry, O. - THE TRIMMED LAMP
Henry, O. - WHIRLIGIGS
Hindman Miller, Gustavus - TEN THOUSAND DREAMS INTERPRETED
Hobbes, Thomas - LEVIATHAN
Homer - THE ILIAD
Homer - THE ODYSSEY
Hornaday, William T. - THE EXTERMINATION OF THE AMERICAN BISON
Hume, David - A TREATISE OF HUMAN NATURE
Hume, David - AN ENQUIRY CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING
Hume, David - DIALOGUES CONCERNING NATURAL RELIGION
Ibsen, Henrik - A DOLL'S HOUSE
Ibsen, Henrik - AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE
Ibsen, Henrik - GHOSTS
Ibsen, Henrik - HEDDA GABLER
Ibsen, Henrik - JOHN GABRIEL BORKMAN
Ibsen, Henrik - ROSMERHOLM
Ibsen, Henrik - THE LADY FROM THE SEA
Ibsen, Henrik - THE MASTER BUILDER
Ibsen, Henrik - WHEN WE DEAD AWAKEN
Irving, Washington - THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW
James, Henry - ITALIAN HOURS
James, Henry - THE ASPERN PAPERS
James, Henry - THE BOSTONIANS
James, Henry - THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY
James, Henry - THE TURN OF THE SCREW
James, Henry - WASHINGTON SQUARE
Jerome, Jerome K. - THREE MEN IN A BOAT
Jerome, Jerome K. - THREE MEN ON THE BUMMEL
Jevons, Stanley - POLITICAL ECONOMY
Johnson, Samuel - A GRAMMAR OF THE ENGLISH TONGUE
Jonson, Ben - THE ALCHEMIST
Jonson, Ben - VOLPONE
Joyce, James - A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN
Joyce, James - CHAMBER MUSIC
Joyce, James - DUBLINERS
Joyce, James - ULYSSES
Keats, John - ENDYMION
Keats, John - POEMS PUBLISHED IN 1817
Keats, John - POEMS PUBLISHED IN 1820
King James - THE BIBLE
Kipling, Rudyard - CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS
Kipling, Rudyard - INDIAN TALES
Kipling, Rudyard - JUST SO STORIES
Kipling, Rudyard - KIM
Kipling, Rudyard - THE JUNGLE BOOK
Kipling, Rudyard - THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING
Kipling, Rudyard - THE SECOND JUNGLE BOOK
Lawrence, D. H - THE RAINBOW
Lawrence, D. H - THE WHITE PEACOCK
Lawrence, D. H - TWILIGHT IN ITALY
Lawrence, D. H. - AARON'S ROD
Lawrence, D. H. - SONS AND LOVERS
Lawrence, D. H. - THE LOST GIRL
Lawrence, D. H. - WOMEN IN LOVE
Lear, Edward - BOOK OF NONSENSE
Lear, Edward - LAUGHABLE LYRICS
Lear, Edward - MORE NONSENSE
Lear, Edward - NONSENSE SONG
Leblanc, Maurice - ARSENE LUPIN VS SHERLOCK HOLMES
Leblanc, Maurice - THE ADVENTURES OF ARSENE LUPIN
Leblanc, Maurice - THE CONFESSIONS OF ARSENE LUPIN
Leblanc, Maurice - THE HOLLOW NEEDLE
Leblanc, Maurice - THE RETURN OF ARSENE LUPIN
Lehmann, Lilli - HOW TO SING
Leroux, Gaston - THE MAN WITH THE BLACK FEATHER
Leroux, Gaston - THE MYSTERY OF THE YELLOW ROOM
Leroux, Gaston - THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
London, Jack - MARTIN EDEN
London, Jack - THE CALL OF THE WILD
London, Jack - WHITE FANG
Machiavelli, Nicolo' - THE PRINCE
Malthus, Thomas - PRINCIPLE OF POPULATION
Mansfield, Katherine - THE GARDEN PARTY AND OTHER STORIES
Marlowe, Christopher - THE JEW OF MALTA
Marryat, Captain - THE CHILDREN OF THE NEW FOREST
Maupassant, Guy De - BEL AMI
Melville, Hermann - MOBY DICK
Melville, Hermann - TYPEE
Mill, John Stuart - PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY
Milton, John - PARADISE LOST
Mitra, S. M. - HINDU TALES FROM THE SANSKRIT
Montaigne, Michel de - ESSAYS
Montgomery, Lucy Maud - ANNE OF GREEN GABLES
More, Thomas - UTOPIA
Nesbit, E. - FIVE CHILDREN AND IT
Nesbit, E. - THE PHOENIX AND THE CARPET
Nesbit, E. - THE RAILWAY CHILDREN
Nesbit, E. - THE STORY OF THE AMULET
Newton, Isaac - OPTICKS
Nietsche, Friedrich - BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL
Nietsche, Friedrich - THUS SPAKE ZARATHUSTRA
Nightingale, Florence - NOTES ON NURSING
Owen, Wilfred - POEMS
Ozaki, Yei Theodora - JAPANESE FAIRY TALES
Pascal, Blaise - PENSEES
Pellico, Silvio - MY TEN YEARS IMPRISONMENT
Perrault, Charles - FAIRY TALES
Pirandello, Luigi - THREE PLAYS
Plato - THE REPUBLIC
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 1
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 2
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 3
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 4
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 5
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER
Potter, Beatrix - THE TALE OF PETER RABBIT
Proust, Marcel - SWANN'S WAY
Radcliffe, Ann - A SICILIAN ROMANCE
Ricardo, David - ON THE PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY AND TAXATION
Richardson, Samuel - PAMELA
Rider Haggard, H. - ALLAN QUATERMAIN
Rider Haggard, H. - KING SOLOMON'S MINES
Rousseau, J. J. - THE ORIGIN AND FOUNDATION OF INEQUALITY AMONG MANKIND
Ruskin, John - THE SEVEN LAMPS OF ARCHITECTURE
Schiller, Friedrich - THE DEATH OF WALLENSTEIN
Schiller, Friedrich - THE PICCOLOMINI
Schopenhauer, Arthur - THE ART OF CONTROVERSY
Schopenhauer, Arthur - THE WISDOM OF LIFE
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - FLAPPERS AND PHILOSOPHERS
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - THE BEAUTIFUL AND DAMNED
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - THIS SIDE OF PARADISE
Scott, Walter - IVANHOE
Scott, Walter - QUENTIN DURWARD
Scott, Walter - ROB ROY
Scott, Walter - THE BRIDE OF LAMMERMOOR
Scott, Walter - WAVERLEY
Sedgwick, Anne Douglas - THE THIRD WINDOW
Sewell, Anna - BLACK BEAUTY
Shakespeare, William - COMPLETE WORKS
Shakespeare, William - HAMLET
Shakespeare, William - OTHELLO
Shakespeare, William - ROMEO AND JULIET
Shelley, Mary - FRANKENSTEIN
Shelley, Percy Bysshe - A DEFENCE OF POETRY AND OTHER ESSAYS
Shelley, Percy Bysshe - COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS
Sheridan, Richard B. - THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL
Sienkiewicz, Henryk - QUO VADIS
Smith, Adam - THE WEALTH OF NATIONS
Smollett, Tobias - TRAVELS THROUGH FRANCE AND ITALY
Spencer, Herbert - ESSAYS ON EDUCATION AND KINDRED SUBJECTS
Spyri, Johanna - HEIDI
Sterne, Laurence - A SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY
Sterne, Laurence - TRISTRAM SHANDY
Stevenson, Robert Louis - A CHILD'S GARDEN OF VERSES
Stevenson, Robert Louis - ESSAYS IN THE ART OF WRITING
Stevenson, Robert Louis - KIDNAPPED
Stevenson, Robert Louis - NEW ARABIAN NIGHTS
Stevenson, Robert Louis - THE BLACK ARROW
Stevenson, Robert Louis - THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE
Stevenson, Robert Louis - TREASURE ISLAND
Stoker, Bram - DRACULA
Strindberg, August - LUCKY PEHR
Strindberg, August - MASTER OLOF
Strindberg, August - THE RED ROOM
Strindberg, August - THE ROAD TO DAMASCUS
Strindberg, August - THERE ARE CRIMES AND CRIMES
Swift, Jonathan - A MODEST PROPOSAL
Swift, Jonathan - A TALE OF A TUB
Swift, Jonathan - GULLIVER'S TRAVELS
Swift, Jonathan - THE BATTLE OF THE BOOKS AND OTHER SHORT PIECES
Tagore, Rabindranath - FRUIT GATHERING
Tagore, Rabindranath - THE GARDENER
Tagore, Rabindranath - THE HUNGRY STONES AND OTHER STORIES
Thackeray, William - BARRY LYNDON
Thackeray, William - VANITY FAIR
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE BOOK OF SNOBS
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE ROSE AND THE RING
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE VIRGINIANS
Thoreau, Henry David - WALDEN
Tolstoi, Leo - A LETTER TO A HINDU
Tolstoy, Lev - ANNA KARENINA
Tolstoy, Lev - WAR AND PEACE
Trollope, Anthony - AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Trollope, Anthony - BARCHESTER TOWERS
Trollope, Anthony - FRAMLEY PARSONAGE
Trollope, Anthony - THE EUSTACE DIAMONDS
Trollope, Anthony - THE MAN WHO KEPT HIS MONEY IN A BOX
Trollope, Anthony - THE WARDEN
Trollope, Anthony - THE WAY WE LIVE NOW
Twain, Mark - LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI
Twain, Mark - SPEECHES
Twain, Mark - THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN
Twain, Mark - THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER
Twain, Mark - THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER
Vari, Autori - THE MAGNA CARTA
Verga, Giovanni - SICILIAN STORIES
Verne, Jules - 20000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEAS
Verne, Jules - A JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH
Verne, Jules - ALL AROUND THE MOON
Verne, Jules - AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS
Verne, Jules - FIVE WEEKS IN A BALLOON
Verne, Jules - FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON
Verne, Jules - MICHAEL STROGOFF
Verne, Jules - THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND
Voltaire - PHILOSOPHICAL DICTIONARY
Vyasa - MAHABHARATA
Wallace, Edgar - SANDERS OF THE RIVER
Wallace, Edgar - THE DAFFODIL MYSTERY
Wallace, Lew - BEN HUR
Webster, Jean - DADDY LONG LEGS
Wedekind, Franz - THE AWAKENING OF SPRING
Wells, H. G. - KIPPS
Wells, H. G. - THE INVISIBLE MAN
Wells, H. G. - THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU
Wells, H. G. - THE STOLEN BACILLUS AND OTHER INCIDENTS
Wells, H. G. - THE TIME MACHINE
Wells, H. G. - THE WAR OF THE WORLDS
Wells, H. G. - WHAT IS COMING
Wharton, Edith - THE AGE OF INNOCENCE
White, Andrew Dickson - FIAT MONEY INFLATION IN FRANCE
Wilde, Oscar - A WOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE
Wilde, Oscar - AN IDEAL HUSBAND
Wilde, Oscar - DE PROFUNDIS
Wilde, Oscar - LADY WINDERMERE'S FAN
Wilde, Oscar - SALOME
Wilde, Oscar - SELECTED POEMS
Wilde, Oscar - THE BALLAD OF READING GAOL
Wilde, Oscar - THE CANTERVILLE GHOST
Wilde, Oscar - THE HAPPY PRINCE AND OTHER TALES
Wilde, Oscar - THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST
Wilde, Oscar - THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GREY
Wilde, Oscar - THE SOUL OF MAN
Wilson, Epiphanius - SACRED BOOKS OF THE EAST
Wollstonecraft, Mary - A VINDICATION OF THE RIGHTS OF WOMAN
Woolf, Virgina - NIGHT AND DAY
Woolf, Virgina - THE VOYAGE OUT
Woolf, Virginia - JACOB'S ROOM
Woolf, Virginia - MONDAY OR TUESDAY
Wordsworth, William - POEMS
Wordsworth, William - PROSE WORKS
Zola, Emile - THERESE RAQUIN
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ISTRUZIONI D'USO DETTAGLIATE
THE MAYOR OF CASTERBRIDGE.
by Thomas Hardy.
One evening of late summer, before the nineteenth century had reached
one-third of its span, a young man and woman, the latter carrying a
child, were approaching the large village of Weydon-Priors, in Upper
Wessex, on foot. They were plainly but not ill clad, though the thick
hoar of dust which had accumulated on their shoes and garments from
an obviously long journey lent a disadvantageous shabbiness to their
appearance just now.
The man was of fine figure, swarthy, and stern in aspect; and he
showed in profile a facial angle so slightly inclined as to be almost
perpendicular. He wore a short jacket of brown corduroy, newer than the
remainder of his suit, which was a fustian waistcoat with white horn
buttons, breeches of the same, tanned leggings, and a straw hat overlaid
with black glazed canvas. At his back he carried by a looped strap a
rush basket, from which protruded at one end the crutch of a hay-knife,
a wimble for hay-bonds being also visible in the aperture. His measured,
springless walk was the walk of the skilled countryman as distinct from
the desultory shamble of the general labourer; while in the turn and
plant of each foot there was, further, a dogged and cynical indifference
personal to himself, showing its presence even in the regularly
interchanging fustian folds, now in the left leg, now in the right, as
he paced along.
What was really peculiar, however, in this couple's progress, and would
have attracted the attention of any casual observer otherwise disposed
to overlook them, was the perfect silence they preserved. They walked
side by side in such a way as to suggest afar off the low, easy,
confidential chat of people full of reciprocity; but on closer view it
could be discerned that the man was reading, or pretending to read, a
ballad sheet which he kept before his eyes with some difficulty by the
hand that was passed through the basket strap. Whether this apparent
cause were the real cause, or whether it were an assumed one to escape
an intercourse that would have been irksome to him, nobody but himself
could have said precisely; but his taciturnity was unbroken, and the
woman enjoyed no society whatever from his presence. Virtually she
walked the highway alone, save for the child she bore. Sometimes the
man's bent elbow almost touched her shoulder, for she kept as close to
his side as was possible without actual contact, but she seemed to
have no idea of taking his arm, nor he of offering it; and far from
exhibiting surprise at his ignoring silence she appeared to receive it
as a natural thing. If any word at all were uttered by the little group,
it was an occasional whisper of the woman to the child--a tiny girl in
short clothes and blue boots of knitted yarn--and the murmured babble of
the child in reply.
The chief--almost the only--attraction of the young woman's face was its
mobility. When she looked down sideways to the girl she became pretty,
and even handsome, particularly that in the action her features
caught slantwise the rays of the strongly coloured sun, which made
transparencies of her eyelids and nostrils and set fire on her lips.
When she plodded on in the shade of the hedge, silently thinking,
she had the hard, half-apathetic expression of one who deems anything
possible at the hands of Time and Chance except, perhaps, fair play. The
first phase was the work of Nature, the second probably of civilization.
That the man and woman were husband and wife, and the parents of
the girl in arms there could be little doubt. No other than such
relationship would have accounted for the atmosphere of stale
familiarity which the trio carried along with them like a nimbus as they
moved down the road.
The wife mostly kept her eyes fixed ahead, though with little
interest--the scene for that matter being one that might have been
matched at almost any spot in any county in England at this time of
the year; a road neither straight nor crooked, neither level nor hilly,
bordered by hedges, trees, and other vegetation, which had entered the
blackened-green stage of colour that the doomed leaves pass through on
their way to dingy, and yellow, and red. The grassy margin of the bank,
and the nearest hedgerow boughs, were powdered by the dust that had been
stirred over them by hasty vehicles, the same dust as it lay on the road
deadening their footfalls like a carpet; and this, with the aforesaid
total absence of conversation, allowed every extraneous sound to be
For a long time there was none, beyond the voice of a weak bird singing
a trite old evening song that might doubtless have been heard on the
hill at the same hour, and with the self-same trills, quavers, and
breves, at any sunset of that season for centuries untold. But as they
approached the village sundry distant shouts and rattles reached their
ears from some elevated spot in that direction, as yet screened from
view by foliage. When the outlying houses of Weydon-Priors could just be
described, the family group was met by a turnip-hoer with his hoe on
his shoulder, and his dinner-bag suspended from it. The reader promptly
"Any trade doing here?" he asked phlegmatically, designating the village
in his van by a wave of the broadsheet. And thinking the labourer did
not understand him, he added, "Anything in the hay-trussing line?"
The turnip-hoer had already begun shaking his head. "Why, save the man,
what wisdom's in him that 'a should come to Weydon for a job of that
sort this time o' year?"
"Then is there any house to let--a little small new cottage just a
builded, or such like?" asked the other.
The pessimist still maintained a negative. "Pulling down is more the
nater of Weydon. There were five houses cleared away last year, and
three this; and the volk nowhere to go--no, not so much as a thatched
hurdle; that's the way o' Weydon-Priors."
The hay-trusser, which he obviously was, nodded with some
superciliousness. Looking towards the village, he continued, "There is
something going on here, however, is there not?"
"Ay. 'Tis Fair Day. Though what you hear now is little more than the
clatter and scurry of getting away the money o' children and fools, for
the real business is done earlier than this. I've been working within
sound o't all day, but I didn't go up--not I. 'Twas no business of
The trusser and his family proceeded on their way, and soon entered the
Fair-field, which showed standing-places and pens where many hundreds of
horses and sheep had been exhibited and sold in the forenoon, but
were now in great part taken away. At present, as their informant had
observed, but little real business remained on hand, the chief being the
sale by auction of a few inferior animals, that could not otherwise
be disposed of, and had been absolutely refused by the better class
of traders, who came and went early. Yet the crowd was denser now
than during the morning hours, the frivolous contingent of visitors,
including journeymen out for a holiday, a stray soldier or two come on
furlough, village shopkeepers, and the like, having latterly flocked in;
persons whose activities found a congenial field among the peep-shows,
toy-stands, waxworks, inspired monsters, disinterested medical men who
travelled for the public good, thimble-riggers, nick-nack vendors, and
readers of Fate.
Neither of our pedestrians had much heart for these things, and they
looked around for a refreshment tent among the many which dotted the
down. Two, which stood nearest to them in the ochreous haze of expiring
sunlight, seemed almost equally inviting. One was formed of new,
milk-hued canvas, and bore red flags on its summit; it announced "Good
Home-brewed Beer, Ale, and Cyder." The other was less new; a little iron
stove-pipe came out of it at the back and in front appeared the placard,
"Good Furmity Sold Hear." The man mentally weighed the two inscriptions
and inclined to the former tent.
"No--no--the other one," said the woman. "I always like furmity; and so
does Elizabeth-Jane; and so will you. It is nourishing after a long hard
"I've never tasted it," said the man. However, he gave way to her
representations, and they entered the furmity booth forthwith.
A rather numerous company appeared within, seated at the long narrow
tables that ran down the tent on each side. At the upper end stood a
stove, containing a charcoal fire, over which hung a large three-legged
crock, sufficiently polished round the rim to show that it was made
of bell-metal. A haggish creature of about fifty presided, in a white
apron, which as it threw an air of respectability over her as far as
it extended, was made so wide as to reach nearly round her waist. She
slowly stirred the contents of the pot. The dull scrape of her large
spoon was audible throughout the tent as she thus kept from burning the
mixture of corn in the grain, flour, milk, raisins, currants, and what
not, that composed the antiquated slop in which she dealt. Vessels
holding the separate ingredients stood on a white-clothed table of
boards and trestles close by.
The young man and woman ordered a basin each of the mixture, steaming
hot, and sat down to consume it at leisure. This was very well so far,
for furmity, as the woman had said, was nourishing, and as proper a
food as could be obtained within the four seas; though, to those not
accustomed to it, the grains of wheat swollen as large as lemon-pips,
which floated on its surface, might have a deterrent effect at first.
But there was more in that tent than met the cursory glance; and the
man, with the instinct of a perverse character, scented it quickly.
After a mincing attack on his bowl, he watched the hag's proceedings
from the corner of his eye, and saw the game she played. He winked to
her, and passed up his basin in reply to her nod; when she took a bottle
from under the table, slily measured out a quantity of its contents, and
tipped the same into the man's furmity. The liquor poured in was rum.
The man as slily sent back money in payment.
He found the concoction, thus strongly laced, much more to his
satisfaction than it had been in its natural state. His wife had
observed the proceeding with much uneasiness; but he persuaded her to
have hers laced also, and she agreed to a milder allowance after some
The man finished his basin, and called for another, the rum being
signalled for in yet stronger proportion. The effect of it was soon
apparent in his manner, and his wife but too sadly perceived that in
strenuously steering off the rocks of the licensed liquor-tent she had
only got into maelstrom depths here amongst the smugglers.
The child began to prattle impatiently, and the wife more than once said
to her husband, "Michael, how about our lodging? You know we may have
trouble in getting it if we don't go soon."
But he turned a deaf ear to those bird-like chirpings. He talked loud to
the company. The child's black eyes, after slow, round, ruminating gazes
at the candles when they were lighted, fell together; then they opened,
then shut again, and she slept.
At the end of the first basin the man had risen to serenity; at the
second he was jovial; at the third, argumentative, at the fourth, the
qualities signified by the shape of his face, the occasional clench of
his mouth, and the fiery spark of his dark eye, began to tell in his
conduct; he was overbearing--even brilliantly quarrelsome.
The conversation took a high turn, as it often does on such occasions.
The ruin of good men by bad wives, and, more particularly, the
frustration of many a promising youth's high aims and hopes and the
extinction of his energies by an early imprudent marriage, was the
"I did for myself that way thoroughly," said the trusser with a
contemplative bitterness that was well-night resentful. "I married at
eighteen, like the fool that I was; and this is the consequence o't." He
pointed at himself and family with a wave of the hand intended to bring
out the penuriousness of the exhibition.
The young woman his wife, who seemed accustomed to such remarks, acted
as if she did not hear them, and continued her intermittent private
words of tender trifles to the sleeping and waking child, who was just
big enough to be placed for a moment on the bench beside her when she
wished to ease her arms. The man continued--
"I haven't more than fifteen shillings in the world, and yet I am a good
experienced hand in my line. I'd challenge England to beat me in the
fodder business; and if I were a free man again I'd be worth a thousand
pound before I'd done o't. But a fellow never knows these little things
till all chance of acting upon 'em is past."
The auctioneer selling the old horses in the field outside could be
heard saying, "Now this is the last lot--now who'll take the last
lot for a song? Shall I say forty shillings? 'Tis a very promising
broodmare, a trifle over five years old, and nothing the matter with the
hoss at all, except that she's a little holler in the back and had her
left eye knocked out by the kick of another, her own sister, coming
along the road."
"For my part I don't see why men who have got wives and don't want 'em,
shouldn't get rid of 'em as these gipsy fellows do their old horses,"
said the man in the tent. "Why shouldn't they put 'em up and sell 'em
by auction to men who are in need of such articles? Hey? Why, begad, I'd
sell mine this minute if anybody would buy her!"
"There's them that would do that," some of the guests replied, looking
at the woman, who was by no means ill-favoured.
"True," said a smoking gentleman, whose coat had the fine polish about
the collar, elbows, seams, and shoulder-blades that long-continued
friction with grimy surfaces will produce, and which is usually more
desired on furniture than on clothes. From his appearance he had
possibly been in former time groom or coachman to some neighbouring
county family. "I've had my breedings in as good circles, I may say, as
any man," he added, "and I know true cultivation, or nobody do; and I
can declare she's got it--in the bone, mind ye, I say--as much as any
female in the fair--though it may want a little bringing out." Then,
crossing his legs, he resumed his pipe with a nicely-adjusted gaze at a
point in the air.
The fuddled young husband stared for a few seconds at this unexpected
praise of his wife, half in doubt of the wisdom of his own attitude
towards the possessor of such qualities. But he speedily lapsed into his
former conviction, and said harshly--
"Well, then, now is your chance; I am open to an offer for this gem o'
She turned to her husband and murmured, "Michael, you have talked this
nonsense in public places before. A joke is a joke, but you may make it
once too often, mind!"
"I know I've said it before; I meant it. All I want is a buyer."
At the moment a swallow, one among the last of the season, which had by
chance found its way through an opening into the upper part of the tent,
flew to and from quick curves above their heads, causing all eyes to
follow it absently. In watching the bird till it made its escape the
assembled company neglected to respond to the workman's offer, and the
But a quarter of an hour later the man, who had gone on lacing his
furmity more and more heavily, though he was either so strong-minded or
such an intrepid toper that he still appeared fairly sober, recurred to
the old strain, as in a musical fantasy the instrument fetches up the
original theme. "Here--I am waiting to know about this offer of mine.
The woman is no good to me. Who'll have her?"
The company had by this time decidedly degenerated, and the renewed
inquiry was received with a laugh of appreciation. The woman whispered;
she was imploring and anxious: "Come, come, it is getting dark, and
this nonsense won't do. If you don't come along, I shall go without you.
She waited and waited; yet he did not move. In ten minutes the man broke
in upon the desultory conversation of the furmity drinkers with. "I
asked this question, and nobody answered to 't. Will any Jack Rag or Tom
Straw among ye buy my goods?"
The woman's manner changed, and her face assumed the grim shape and
colour of which mention has been made.
"Mike, Mike," she said; "this is getting serious. O!--too serious!"
"Will anybody buy her?" said the man.
"I wish somebody would," said she firmly. "Her present owner is not at
all to her liking!"
"Nor you to mine," said he. "So we are agreed about that. Gentlemen, you
hear? It's an agreement to part. She shall take the girl if she wants
to, and go her ways. I'll take my tools, and go my ways. 'Tis simple as
Scripture history. Now then, stand up, Susan, and show yourself."
"Don't, my chiel," whispered a buxom staylace dealer in voluminous
petticoats, who sat near the woman; "yer good man don't know what he's
The woman, however, did stand up. "Now, who's auctioneer?" cried the
"I be," promptly answered a short man, with a nose resembling a copper
knob, a damp voice, and eyes like button-holes. "Who'll make an offer
for this lady?"
The woman looked on the ground, as if she maintained her position by a
supreme effort of will.
"Five shillings," said someone, at which there was a laugh.
"No insults," said the husband. "Who'll say a guinea?"
Nobody answered; and the female dealer in staylaces interposed.
"Behave yerself moral, good man, for Heaven's love! Ah, what a cruelty
is the poor soul married to! Bed and board is dear at some figures 'pon
my 'vation 'tis!"
"Set it higher, auctioneer," said the trusser.
"Two guineas!" said the auctioneer; and no one replied.
"If they don't take her for that, in ten seconds they'll have to give
more," said the husband. "Very well. Now auctioneer, add another."
"Three guineas--going for three guineas!" said the rheumy man.
"No bid?" said the husband. "Good Lord, why she's cost me fifty times
the money, if a penny. Go on."
"Four guineas!" cried the auctioneer.
"I'll tell ye what--I won't sell her for less than five," said the
husband, bringing down his fist so that the basins danced. "I'll sell
her for five guineas to any man that will pay me the money, and treat
her well; and he shall have her for ever, and never hear aught o' me.
But she shan't go for less. Now then--five guineas--and she's yours.
Susan, you agree?"
She bowed her head with absolute indifference.
"Five guineas," said the auctioneer, "or she'll be withdrawn. Do anybody
give it? The last time. Yes or no?"
"Yes," said a loud voice from the doorway.
All eyes were turned. Standing in the triangular opening which formed
the door of the tent was a sailor, who, unobserved by the rest, had
arrived there within the last two or three minutes. A dead silence
followed his affirmation.
"You say you do?" asked the husband, staring at him.
"I say so," replied the sailor.
"Saying is one thing, and paying is another. Where's the money?"
The sailor hesitated a moment, looked anew at the woman, came in,
unfolded five crisp pieces of paper, and threw them down upon the
tablecloth. They were Bank-of-England notes for five pounds. Upon the
face of this he clinked down the shillings severally--one, two, three,
The sight of real money in full amount, in answer to a challenge for the
same till then deemed slightly hypothetical had a great effect upon
the spectators. Their eyes became riveted upon the faces of the chief
actors, and then upon the notes as they lay, weighted by the shillings,
on the table.
Up to this moment it could not positively have been asserted that the
man, in spite of his tantalizing declaration, was really in earnest.
The spectators had indeed taken the proceedings throughout as a piece of
mirthful irony carried to extremes; and had assumed that, being out
of work, he was, as a consequence, out of temper with the world, and
society, and his nearest kin. But with the demand and response of real
cash the jovial frivolity of the scene departed. A lurid colour
seemed to fill the tent, and change the aspect of all therein. The
mirth-wrinkles left the listeners' faces, and they waited with parting
"Now," said the woman, breaking the silence, so that her low dry voice
sounded quite loud, "before you go further, Michael, listen to me. If
you touch that money, I and this girl go with the man. Mind, it is a
joke no longer."
"A joke? Of course it is not a joke!" shouted her husband, his
resentment rising at her suggestion. "I take the money; the sailor takes
you. That's plain enough. It has been done elsewhere--and why not here?"
"'Tis quite on the understanding that the young woman is willing," said
the sailor blandly. "I wouldn't hurt her feelings for the world."
"Faith, nor I," said her husband. "But she is willing, provided she can
have the child. She said so only the other day when I talked o't!"
"That you swear?" said the sailor to her.
"I do," said she, after glancing at her husband's face and seeing no
"Very well, she shall have the child, and the bargain's complete," said
the trusser. He took the sailor's notes and deliberately folded them,
and put them with the shillings in a high remote pocket, with an air of
The sailor looked at the woman and smiled. "Come along!" he said kindly.
"The little one too--the more the merrier!" She paused for an instant,
with a close glance at him. Then dropping her eyes again, and saying
nothing, she took up the child and followed him as he made towards the
door. On reaching it, she turned, and pulling off her wedding-ring,
flung it across the booth in the hay-trusser's face.
"Mike," she said, "I've lived with thee a couple of years, and had
nothing but temper! Now I'm no more to 'ee; I'll try my luck elsewhere.
'Twill be better for me and Elizabeth-Jane, both. So good-bye!"
Seizing the sailor's arm with her right hand, and mounting the little
girl on her left, she went out of the tent sobbing bitterly.
A stolid look of concern filled the husband's face, as if, after all, he
had not quite anticipated this ending; and some of the guests laughed.
"Is she gone?" he said.
"Faith, ay! she's gone clane enough," said some rustics near the door.
He rose and walked to the entrance with the careful tread of one
conscious of his alcoholic load. Some others followed, and they stood
looking into the twilight. The difference between the peacefulness of
inferior nature and the wilful hostilities of mankind was very apparent
at this place. In contrast with the harshness of the act just ended
within the tent was the sight of several horses crossing their necks and
rubbing each other lovingly as they waited in patience to be harnessed
for the homeward journey. Outside the fair, in the valleys and woods,
all was quiet. The sun had recently set, and the west heaven was hung
with rosy cloud, which seemed permanent, yet slowly changed. To watch
it was like looking at some grand feat of stagery from a darkened
auditorium. In presence of this scene after the other there was a
natural instinct to abjure man as the blot on an otherwise kindly
universe; till it was remembered that all terrestrial conditions were
intermittent, and that mankind might some night be innocently sleeping
when these quiet objects were raging loud.
"Where do the sailor live?" asked a spectator, when they had vainly
"God knows that," replied the man who had seen high life. "He's without
doubt a stranger here."
"He came in about five minutes ago," said the furmity woman, joining the
rest with her hands on her hips. "And then 'a stepped back, and then 'a
looked in again. I'm not a penny the better for him."
"Serves the husband well be-right," said the staylace vendor. "A comely
respectable body like her--what can a man want more? I glory in the
woman's sperrit. I'd ha' done it myself--od send if I wouldn't, if a
husband had behaved so to me! I'd go, and 'a might call, and call, till
his keacorn was raw; but I'd never come back--no, not till the great
trumpet, would I!"
"Well, the woman will be better off," said another of a more
deliberative turn. "For seafaring natures be very good shelter for shorn
lambs, and the man do seem to have plenty of money, which is what she's
not been used to lately, by all showings."
"Mark me--I'll not go after her!" said the trusser, returning doggedly
to his seat. "Let her go! If she's up to such vagaries she must suffer
for 'em. She'd no business to take the maid--'tis my maid; and if it
were the doing again she shouldn't have her!"
Perhaps from some little sense of having countenanced an indefensible
proceeding, perhaps because it was late, the customers thinned away
from the tent shortly after this episode. The man stretched his elbows
forward on the table leant his face upon his arms, and soon began to
snore. The furmity seller decided to close for the night, and after
seeing the rum-bottles, milk, corn, raisins, etc., that remained on
hand, loaded into the cart, came to where the man reclined. She shook
him, but could not wake him. As the tent was not to be struck that
night, the fair continuing for two or three days, she decided to let the
sleeper, who was obviously no tramp, stay where he was, and his basket
with him. Extinguishing the last candle, and lowering the flap of the
tent, she left it, and drove away.
The morning sun was streaming through the crevices of the canvas when
the man awoke. A warm glow pervaded the whole atmosphere of the marquee,
and a single big blue fly buzzed musically round and round it. Besides
the buzz of the fly there was not a sound. He looked about--at the
benches--at the table supported by trestles--at his basket of tools--at
the stove where the furmity had been boiled--at the empty basins--at
some shed grains of wheat--at the corks which dotted the grassy floor.
Among the odds and ends he discerned a little shining object, and picked
it up. It was his wife's ring.
A confused picture of the events of the previous evening seemed to come
back to him, and he thrust his hand into his breast-pocket. A rustling
revealed the sailor's bank-notes thrust carelessly in.
This second verification of his dim memories was enough; he knew now
they were not dreams. He remained seated, looking on the ground for some
time. "I must get out of this as soon as I can," he said deliberately
at last, with the air of one who could not catch his thoughts without
pronouncing them. "She's gone--to be sure she is--gone with that sailor
who bought her, and little Elizabeth-Jane. We walked here, and I had the
furmity, and rum in it--and sold her. Yes, that's what's happened and
here am I. Now, what am I to do--am I sober enough to walk, I wonder?"
He stood up, found that he was in fairly good condition for progress,
unencumbered. Next he shouldered his tool basket, and found he could
carry it. Then lifting the tent door he emerged into the open air.
Here the man looked around with gloomy curiosity. The freshness of the
September morning inspired and braced him as he stood. He and his family
had been weary when they arrived the night before, and they had observed
but little of the place; so that he now beheld it as a new thing. It
exhibited itself as the top of an open down, bounded on one extreme by
a plantation, and approached by a winding road. At the bottom stood the
village which lent its name to the upland and the annual fair that was
held thereon. The spot stretched downward into valleys, and onward to
other uplands, dotted with barrows, and trenched with the remains of
prehistoric forts. The whole scene lay under the rays of a newly risen
sun, which had not as yet dried a single blade of the heavily dewed
grass, whereon the shadows of the yellow and red vans were projected far
away, those thrown by the felloe of each wheel being elongated in shape
to the orbit of a comet. All the gipsies and showmen who had remained
on the ground lay snug within their carts and tents or wrapped in
horse-cloths under them, and were silent and still as death, with the
exception of an occasional snore that revealed their presence. But
the Seven Sleepers had a dog; and dogs of the mysterious breeds that
vagrants own, that are as much like cats as dogs and as much like foxes
as cats also lay about here. A little one started up under one of the
carts, barked as a matter of principle, and quickly lay down again.
He was the only positive spectator of the hay-trusser's exit from the
This seemed to accord with his desire. He went on in silent thought,
unheeding the yellowhammers which flitted about the hedges with straws
in their bills, the crowns of the mushrooms, and the tinkling of local
sheep-bells, whose wearer had had the good fortune not to be included
in the fair. When he reached a lane, a good mile from the scene of the
previous evening, the man pitched his basket and leant upon a gate. A
difficult problem or two occupied his mind.
"Did I tell my name to anybody last night, or didn't I tell my name?"
he said to himself; and at last concluded that he did not. His general
demeanour was enough to show how he was surprised and nettled that his
wife had taken him so literally--as much could be seen in his face, and
in the way he nibbled a straw which he pulled from the hedge. He knew
that she must have been somewhat excited to do this; moreover, she
must have believed that there was some sort of binding force in the
transaction. On this latter point he felt almost certain, knowing her
freedom from levity of character, and the extreme simplicity of her
intellect. There may, too, have been enough recklessness and resentment
beneath her ordinary placidity to make her stifle any momentary doubts.
On a previous occasion when he had declared during a fuddle that he
would dispose of her as he had done, she had replied that she would not
hear him say that many times more before it happened, in the resigned
tones of a fatalist.... "Yet she knows I am not in my senses when I do
that!" he exclaimed. "Well, I must walk about till I find her....Seize
her, why didn't she know better than bring me into this disgrace!" he
roared out. "She wasn't queer if I was. 'Tis like Susan to show such
idiotic simplicity. Meek--that meekness has done me more harm than the
When he was calmer he turned to his original conviction that he must
somehow find her and his little Elizabeth-Jane, and put up with the
shame as best he could. It was of his own making, and he ought to bear
it. But first he resolved to register an oath, a greater oath than he
had ever sworn before: and to do it properly he required a fit place and
imagery; for there was something fetichistic in this man's beliefs.
He shouldered his basket and moved on, casting his eyes inquisitively
round upon the landscape as he walked, and at the distance of three or
four miles perceived the roofs of a village and the tower of a church.
He instantly made towards the latter object. The village was quite
still, it being that motionless hour of rustic daily life which fills
the interval between the departure of the field-labourers to their work,
and the rising of their wives and daughters to prepare the breakfast for
their return. Hence he reached the church without observation, and the
door being only latched he entered. The hay-trusser deposited his basket
by the font, went up the nave till he reached the altar-rails, and
opening the gate entered the sacrarium, where he seemed to feel a
sense of the strangeness for a moment; then he knelt upon the
footpace. Dropping his head upon the clamped book which lay on the
Communion-table, he said aloud--
"I, Michael Henchard, on this morning of the sixteenth of September, do
take an oath before God here in this solemn place that I will avoid all
strong liquors for the space of twenty-one years to come, being a year
for every year that I have lived. And this I swear upon the book before
me; and may I be strook dumb, blind, and helpless, if I break this my
When he had said it and kissed the big book, the hay-trusser arose,
and seemed relieved at having made a start in a new direction. While
standing in the porch a moment he saw a thick jet of wood smoke suddenly
start up from the red chimney of a cottage near, and knew that the
occupant had just lit her fire. He went round to the door, and the
housewife agreed to prepare him some breakfast for a trifling payment,
which was done. Then he started on the search for his wife and child.
The perplexing nature of the undertaking became apparent soon enough.
Though he examined and inquired, and walked hither and thither day after
day, no such characters as those he described had anywhere been seen
since the evening of the fair. To add to the difficulty he could gain
no sound of the sailor's name. As money was short with him he decided,
after some hesitation, to spend the sailor's money in the prosecution
of this search; but it was equally in vain. The truth was that a
certain shyness of revealing his conduct prevented Michael Henchard from
following up the investigation with the loud hue-and-cry such a pursuit
demanded to render it effectual; and it was probably for this reason
that he obtained no clue, though everything was done by him that did not
involve an explanation of the circumstances under which he had lost her.
Weeks counted up to months, and still he searched on, maintaining
himself by small jobs of work in the intervals. By this time he had
arrived at a seaport, and there he derived intelligence that persons
answering somewhat to his description had emigrated a little time
before. Then he said he would search no longer, and that he would go and
settle in the district which he had had for some time in his mind.
Next day he started, journeying south-westward, and did not pause,
except for nights' lodgings, till he reached the town of Casterbridge,
in a far distant part of Wessex.
The highroad into the village of Weydon-Priors was again carpeted with
dust. The trees had put on as of yore their aspect of dingy green, and
where the Henchard family of three had once walked along, two persons
not unconnected with the family walked now.
The scene in its broad aspect had so much of its previous character,
even to the voices and rattle from the neighbouring village down,
that it might for that matter have been the afternoon following the
previously recorded episode. Change was only to be observed in details;
but here it was obvious that a long procession of years had passed by.
One of the two who walked the road was she who had figured as the young
wife of Henchard on the previous occasion; now her face had lost much of
its rotundity; her skin had undergone a textural change; and though her
hair had not lost colour it was considerably thinner than heretofore.
She was dressed in the mourning clothes of a widow. Her companion,
also in black, appeared as a well-formed young woman about eighteen,
completely possessed of that ephemeral precious essence youth, which is
itself beauty, irrespective of complexion or contour.
A glance was sufficient to inform the eye that this was Susan Henchard's
grown-up daughter. While life's middle summer had set its hardening
mark on the mother's face, her former spring-like specialities were
transferred so dexterously by Time to the second figure, her child,
that the absence of certain facts within her mother's knowledge from the
girl's mind would have seemed for the moment, to one reflecting on those
facts, to be a curious imperfection in Nature's powers of continuity.
They walked with joined hands, and it could be perceived that this was
the act of simple affection. The daughter carried in her outer hand
a withy basket of old-fashioned make; the mother a blue bundle, which
contrasted oddly with her black stuff gown.
Reaching the outskirts of the village they pursued the same track as
formerly, and ascended to the fair. Here, too it was evident that the
years had told. Certain mechanical improvements might have been noticed
in the roundabouts and high-fliers, machines for testing rustic strength
and weight, and in the erections devoted to shooting for nuts. But the
real business of the fair had considerably dwindled. The new periodical
great markets of neighbouring towns were beginning to interfere
seriously with the trade carried on here for centuries. The pens for
sheep, the tie-ropes for horses, were about half as long as they had
been. The stalls of tailors, hosiers, coopers, linen-drapers, and other
such trades had almost disappeared, and the vehicles were far less
numerous. The mother and daughter threaded the crowd for some little
distance, and then stood still.
"Why did we hinder our time by coming in here? I thought you wished to
get onward?" said the maiden.
"Yes, my dear Elizabeth-Jane," explained the other. "But I had a fancy
for looking up here."
"It was here I first met with Newson--on such a day as this."
"First met with father here? Yes, you have told me so before. And now
he's drowned and gone from us!" As she spoke the girl drew a card from
her pocket and looked at it with a sigh. It was edged with black, and
inscribed within a design resembling a mural tablet were the words, "In
affectionate memory of Richard Newson, mariner, who was unfortunately
lost at sea, in the month of November 184--, aged forty-one years."
"And it was here," continued her mother, with more hesitation, "that I
last saw the relation we are going to look for--Mr. Michael Henchard."
"What is his exact kin to us, mother? I have never clearly had it told
"He is, or was--for he may be dead--a connection by marriage," said her
"That's exactly what you have said a score of times before!" replied the
young woman, looking about her inattentively. "He's not a near relation,
"Not by any means."
"He was a hay-trusser, wasn't he, when you last heard of him?
"I suppose he never knew me?" the girl innocently continued.
Mrs. Henchard paused for a moment, and answered un-easily, "Of course
not, Elizabeth-Jane. But come this way." She moved on to another part of
"It is not much use inquiring here for anybody, I should think," the
daughter observed, as she gazed round about. "People at fairs change
like the leaves of trees; and I daresay you are the only one here to-day
who was here all those years ago."
"I am not so sure of that," said Mrs. Newson, as she now called herself,
keenly eyeing something under a green bank a little way off. "See
The daughter looked in the direction signified. The object pointed
out was a tripod of sticks stuck into the earth, from which hung a
three-legged crock, kept hot by a smouldering wood fire beneath. Over
the pot stooped an old woman haggard, wrinkled, and almost in rags. She
stirred the contents of the pot with a large spoon, and occasionally
croaked in a broken voice, "Good furmity sold here!"
It was indeed the former mistress of the furmity tent--once thriving,
cleanly, white-aproned, and chinking with money--now tentless, dirty,
owning no tables or benches, and having scarce any customers except
two small whity-brown boys, who came up and asked for "A ha'p'orth,
please--good measure," which she served in a couple of chipped yellow
basins of commonest clay.
"She was here at that time," resumed Mrs. Newson, making a step as if to
"Don't speak to her--it isn't respectable!" urged the other.
"I will just say a word--you, Elizabeth-Jane, can stay here."
The girl was not loth, and turned to some stalls of coloured prints
while her mother went forward. The old woman begged for the latter's
custom as soon as she saw her, and responded to Mrs. Henchard-Newson's
request for a pennyworth with more alacrity than she had shown in
selling six-pennyworths in her younger days. When the soi-disant widow
had taken the basin of thin poor slop that stood for the rich concoction
of the former time, the hag opened a little basket behind the fire, and
looking up slily, whispered, "Just a thought o' rum in it?--smuggled,
you know--say two penn'orth--'twill make it slip down like cordial!"
Her customer smiled bitterly at this survival of the old trick, and
shook her head with a meaning the old woman was far from translating.
She pretended to eat a little of the furmity with the leaden spoon
offered, and as she did so said blandly to the hag, "You've seen better
"Ah, ma'am--well ye may say it!" responded the old woman, opening the
sluices of her heart forthwith. "I've stood in this fair-ground, maid,
wife, and widow, these nine-and-thirty years, and in that time have
known what it was to do business with the richest stomachs in the
land! Ma'am you'd hardly believe that I was once the owner of a great
pavilion-tent that was the attraction of the fair. Nobody could come,
nobody could go, without having a dish of Mrs. Goodenough's furmity.
I knew the clergy's taste, the dandy gent's taste; I knew the town's
taste, the country's taste. I even knowed the taste of the coarse
shameless females. But Lord's my life--the world's no memory;
straightforward dealings don't bring profit--'tis the sly and the
underhand that get on in these times!"
Mrs. Newson glanced round--her daughter was still bending over the
distant stalls. "Can you call to mind," she said cautiously to the old
woman, "the sale of a wife by her husband in your tent eighteen years
The hag reflected, and half shook her head. "If it had been a big
thing I should have minded it in a moment," she said. "I can mind every
serious fight o' married parties, every murder, every manslaughter, even
every pocket-picking--leastwise large ones--that 't has been my lot to
witness. But a selling? Was it done quiet-like?"
"Well, yes. I think so."
The furmity woman half shook her head again. "And yet," she said, "I do.
At any rate, I can mind a man doing something o' the sort--a man in a
cord jacket, with a basket of tools; but, Lord bless ye, we don't gi'e
it head-room, we don't, such as that. The only reason why I can mind the
man is that he came back here to the next year's fair, and told me quite
private-like that if a woman ever asked for him I was to say he had gone
to--where?--Casterbridge--yes--to Casterbridge, said he. But, Lord's my
life, I shouldn't ha' thought of it again!"
Mrs. Newson would have rewarded the old woman as far as her small
means afforded had she not discreetly borne in mind that it was by that
unscrupulous person's liquor her husband had been degraded. She briefly
thanked her informant, and rejoined Elizabeth, who greeted her with,
"Mother, do let's get on--it was hardly respectable for you to buy
refreshments there. I see none but the lowest do."
"I have learned what I wanted, however," said her mother quietly.
"The last time our relative visited this fair he said he was living at
Casterbridge. It is a long, long way from here, and it was many years
ago that he said it, but there I think we'll go."
With this they descended out of the fair, and went onward to the
village, where they obtained a night's lodging.
Henchard's wife acted for the best, but she had involved herself in
difficulties. A hundred times she had been upon the point of telling her
daughter Elizabeth-Jane the true story of her life, the tragical crisis
of which had been the transaction at Weydon Fair, when she was not much
older than the girl now beside her. But she had refrained. An innocent
maiden had thus grown up in the belief that the relations between the
genial sailor and her mother were the ordinary ones that they had always
appeared to be. The risk of endangering a child's strong affection by
disturbing ideas which had grown with her growth was to Mrs. Henchard
too fearful a thing to contemplate. It had seemed, indeed folly to think
of making Elizabeth-Jane wise.
But Susan Henchard's fear of losing her dearly loved daughter's heart by
a revelation had little to do with any sense of wrong-doing on her own
part. Her simplicity--the original ground of Henchard's contempt for
her--had allowed her to live on in the conviction that Newson
had acquired a morally real and justifiable right to her by his
purchase--though the exact bearings and legal limits of that right were
vague. It may seem strange to sophisticated minds that a sane young
matron could believe in the seriousness of such a transfer; and were
there not numerous other instances of the same belief the thing might
scarcely be credited. But she was by no means the first or last peasant
woman who had religiously adhered to her purchaser, as too many rural
The history of Susan Henchard's adventures in the interim can be told
in two or three sentences. Absolutely helpless she had been taken off
to Canada where they had lived several years without any great worldly
success, though she worked as hard as any woman could to keep their
cottage cheerful and well-provided. When Elizabeth-Jane was about twelve
years old the three returned to England, and settled at Falmouth,
where Newson made a living for a few years as boatman and general handy
He then engaged in the Newfoundland trade, and it was during this period
that Susan had an awakening. A friend to whom she confided her history
ridiculed her grave acceptance of her position; and all was over with
her peace of mind. When Newson came home at the end of one winter he saw
that the delusion he had so carefully sustained had vanished for ever.
There was then a time of sadness, in which she told him her doubts
if she could live with him longer. Newson left home again on the
Newfoundland trade when the season came round. The vague news of his
loss at sea a little later on solved a problem which had become torture
to her meek conscience. She saw him no more.
Of Henchard they heard nothing. To the liege subjects of Labour, the
England of those days was a continent, and a mile a geographical degree.
Elizabeth-Jane developed early into womanliness. One day a month or
so after receiving intelligence of Newson's death off the Bank of
Newfoundland, when the girl was about eighteen, she was sitting on a
willow chair in the cottage they still occupied, working twine nets for
the fishermen. Her mother was in a back corner of the same room engaged
in the same labour, and dropping the heavy wood needle she was filling
she surveyed her daughter thoughtfully. The sun shone in at the door
upon the young woman's head and hair, which was worn loose, so that the
rays streamed into its depths as into a hazel copse. Her face, though
somewhat wan and incomplete, possessed the raw materials of beauty in a
promising degree. There was an under-handsomeness in it, struggling
to reveal itself through the provisional curves of immaturity, and the
casual disfigurements that resulted from the straitened circumstances of
their lives. She was handsome in the bone, hardly as yet handsome in the
flesh. She possibly might never be fully handsome, unless the carking
accidents of her daily existence could be evaded before the mobile parts
of her countenance had settled to their final mould.
The sight of the girl made her mother sad--not vaguely but by logical
inference. They both were still in that strait-waistcoat of poverty from
which she had tried so many times to be delivered for the girl's sake.
The woman had long perceived how zealously and constantly the young mind
of her companion was struggling for enlargement; and yet now, in
her eighteenth year, it still remained but little unfolded. The
desire--sober and repressed--of Elizabeth-Jane's heart was indeed to
see, to hear, and to understand. How could she become a woman of wider
knowledge, higher repute--"better," as she termed it--this was her
constant inquiry of her mother. She sought further into things than
other girls in her position ever did, and her mother groaned as she felt
she could not aid in the search.
The sailor, drowned or no, was probably now lost to them; and Susan's
staunch, religious adherence to him as her husband in principle, till
her views had been disturbed by enlightenment, was demanded no more. She
asked herself whether the present moment, now that she was a free woman
again, were not as opportune a one as she would find in a world where
everything had been so inopportune, for making a desperate effort to
advance Elizabeth. To pocket her pride and search for the first husband
seemed, wisely or not, the best initiatory step. He had possibly drunk
himself into his tomb. But he might, on the other hand, have had too
much sense to do so; for in her time with him he had been given to bouts
only, and was not a habitual drunkard.
At any rate, the propriety of returning to him, if he lived, was
unquestionable. The awkwardness of searching for him lay in enlightening
Elizabeth, a proceeding which her mother could not endure to
contemplate. She finally resolved to undertake the search without
confiding to the girl her former relations with Henchard, leaving it to
him if they found him to take what steps he might choose to that
end. This will account for their conversation at the fair and the
half-informed state at which Elizabeth was led onward.
In this attitude they proceeded on their journey, trusting solely to the
dim light afforded of Henchard's whereabouts by the furmity woman. The
strictest economy was indispensable. Sometimes they might have been seen
on foot, sometimes on farmers' waggons, sometimes in carriers' vans; and
thus they drew near to Casterbridge. Elizabeth-Jane discovered to her
alarm that her mother's health was not what it once had been, and there
was ever and anon in her talk that renunciatory tone which showed that,
but for the girl, she would not be very sorry to quit a life she was
growing thoroughly weary of.
It was on a Friday evening, near the middle of September and just before
dusk, that they reached the summit of a hill within a mile of the place
they sought. There were high banked hedges to the coach-road here,
and they mounted upon the green turf within, and sat down. The spot
commanded a full view of the town and its environs.
"What an old-fashioned place it seems to be!" said Elizabeth-Jane, while
her silent mother mused on other things than topography. "It is huddled
all together; and it is shut in by a square wall of trees, like a plot
of garden ground by a box-edging."
Its squareness was, indeed, the characteristic which most struck the eye
in this antiquated borough, the borough of Casterbridge--at that time,
recent as it was, untouched by the faintest sprinkle of modernism. It
was compact as a box of dominoes. It had no suburbs--in the ordinary
sense. Country and town met at a mathematical line.
To birds of the more soaring kind Casterbridge must have appeared on
this fine evening as a mosaic-work of subdued reds, browns, greys, and
crystals, held together by a rectangular frame of deep green. To the
level eye of humanity it stood as an indistinct mass behind a dense
stockade of limes and chestnuts, set in the midst of miles of rotund
down and concave field. The mass became gradually dissected by the
vision into towers, gables, chimneys, and casements, the highest
glazings shining bleared and bloodshot with the coppery fire they caught
from the belt of sunlit cloud in the west.
From the centre of each side of this tree-bound square ran avenues
east, west, and south into the wide expanse of cornland and coomb to
the distance of a mile or so. It was by one of these avenues that the
pedestrians were about to enter. Before they had risen to proceed two
men passed outside the hedge, engaged in argumentative conversation.
"Why, surely," said Elizabeth, as they receded, "those men mentioned the
name of Henchard in their talk--the name of our relative?"
"I thought so too," said Mrs. Newson.
"That seems a hint to us that he is still here."
"Shall I run after them, and ask them about him----"
"No, no, no! Not for the world just yet. He may be in the workhouse, or
in the stocks, for all we know."
"Dear me--why should you think that, mother?"
"'Twas just something to say--that's all! But we must make private
Having sufficiently rested they proceeded on their way at evenfall. The
dense trees of the avenue rendered the road dark as a tunnel, though the
open land on each side was still under a faint daylight, in other words,
they passed down a midnight between two gloamings. The features of the
town had a keen interest for Elizabeth's mother, now that the human side
came to the fore. As soon as they had wandered about they could see that
the stockade of gnarled trees which framed in Casterbridge was itself
an avenue, standing on a low green bank or escarpment, with a ditch
yet visible without. Within the avenue and bank was a wall more or
less discontinuous, and within the wall were packed the abodes of the
Though the two women did not know it these external features were but
the ancient defences of the town, planted as a promenade.
The lamplights now glimmered through the engirdling trees, conveying a
sense of great smugness and comfort inside, and rendering at the same
time the unlighted country without strangely solitary and vacant in
aspect, considering its nearness to life. The difference between burgh
and champaign was increased, too, by sounds which now reached them above
others--the notes of a brass band. The travellers returned into the High
Street, where there were timber houses with overhanging stories,
whose small-paned lattices were screened by dimity curtains on a
drawing-string, and under whose bargeboards old cobwebs waved in the
breeze. There were houses of brick-nogging, which derived their chief
support from those adjoining. There were slate roofs patched with tiles,
and tile roofs patched with slate, with occasionally a roof of thatch.
The agricultural and pastoral character of the people upon whom the town
depended for its existence was shown by the class of objects displayed
in the shop windows. Scythes, reap-hooks, sheep-shears, bill-hooks,
spades, mattocks, and hoes at the iron-monger's; bee-hives,
butter-firkins, churns, milking stools and pails, hay-rakes,
field-flagons, and seed-lips at the cooper's; cart-ropes and
plough-harness at the saddler's; carts, wheel-barrows, and mill-gear at
the wheelwright's and machinist's, horse-embrocations at the chemist's;
at the glover's and leather-cutter's, hedging-gloves, thatchers'
knee-caps, ploughmen's leggings, villagers' pattens and clogs.
They came to a grizzled church, whose massive square tower rose unbroken
into the darkening sky, the lower parts being illuminated by the nearest
lamps sufficiently to show how completely the mortar from the joints
of the stonework had been nibbled out by time and weather, which had
planted in the crevices thus made little tufts of stone-crop and grass
almost as far up as the very battlements. From this tower the clock
struck eight, and thereupon a bell began to toll with a peremptory
clang. The curfew was still rung in Casterbridge, and it was utilized by
the inhabitants as a signal for shutting their shops. No sooner did the
deep notes of the bell throb between the house-fronts than a clatter
of shutters arose through the whole length of the High Street. In a few
minutes business at Casterbridge was ended for the day.
Other clocks struck eight from time to time--one gloomily from the gaol,
another from the gable of an almshouse, with a preparative creak of
machinery, more audible than the note of the bell; a row of tall,
varnished case-clocks from the interior of a clock-maker's shop joined
in one after another just as the shutters were enclosing them, like a
row of actors delivering their final speeches before the fall of the
curtain; then chimes were heard stammering out the Sicilian Mariners'
Hymn; so that chronologists of the advanced school were appreciably on
their way to the next hour before the whole business of the old one was
satisfactorily wound up.
In an open space before the church walked a woman with her gown-sleeves
rolled up so high that the edge of her underlinen was visible, and her
skirt tucked up through her pocket hole. She carried a load under her
arm from which she was pulling pieces of bread, and handing them to some
other women who walked with her, which pieces they nibbled critically.
The sight reminded Mrs. Henchard-Newson and her daughter that they had
an appetite; and they inquired of the woman for the nearest baker's.
"Ye may as well look for manna-food as good bread in Casterbridge just
now," she said, after directing them. "They can blare their trumpets
and thump their drums, and have their roaring dinners"--waving her hand
towards a point further along the street, where the brass band could be
seen standing in front of an illuminated building--"but we must needs be
put-to for want of a wholesome crust. There's less good bread than good
beer in Casterbridge now."
"And less good beer than swipes," said a man with his hands in his
"How does it happen there's no good bread?" asked Mrs. Henchard.
"Oh, 'tis the corn-factor--he's the man that our millers and bakers all
deal wi', and he has sold 'em growed wheat, which they didn't know
was growed, so they SAY, till the dough ran all over the ovens like
quicksilver; so that the loaves be as flat as toads, and like suet
pudden inside. I've been a wife, and I've been a mother, and I never see
such unprincipled bread in Casterbridge as this before.--But you must be
a real stranger here not to know what's made all the poor volks' insides
plim like blowed bladders this week?"
"I am," said Elizabeth's mother shyly.
Not wishing to be observed further till she knew more of her future
in this place, she withdrew with her daughter from the speaker's side.
Getting a couple of biscuits at the shop indicated as a temporary
substitute for a meal, they next bent their steps instinctively to where
the music was playing.
A few score yards brought them to the spot where the town band was now
shaking the window-panes with the strains of "The Roast Beef of Old
The building before whose doors they had pitched their music-stands was
the chief hotel in Casterbridge--namely, the King's Arms. A spacious
bow-window projected into the street over the main portico, and from the
open sashes came the babble of voices, the jingle of glasses, and the
drawing of corks. The blinds, moreover, being left unclosed, the whole
interior of this room could be surveyed from the top of a flight of
stone steps to the road-waggon office opposite, for which reason a knot
of idlers had gathered there.
"We might, perhaps, after all, make a few inquiries about--our
relation Mr. Henchard," whispered Mrs. Newson who, since her entry
into Casterbridge, had seemed strangely weak and agitated, "And this, I
think, would be a good place for trying it--just to ask, you know,
how he stands in the town--if he is here, as I think he must be. You,
Elizabeth-Jane, had better be the one to do it. I'm too worn out to do
anything--pull down your fall first."
She sat down upon the lowest step, and Elizabeth-Jane obeyed her
directions and stood among the idlers.
"What's going on to-night?" asked the girl, after singling out an old
man and standing by him long enough to acquire a neighbourly right of
"Well, ye must be a stranger sure," said the old man, without taking
his eyes from the window. "Why, 'tis a great public dinner of the
gentle-people and such like leading volk--wi' the Mayor in the chair. As
we plainer fellows bain't invited, they leave the winder-shutters open
that we may get jist a sense o't out here. If you mount the steps you
can see em. That's Mr. Henchard, the Mayor, at the end of the table, a
facing ye; and that's the Council men right and left....Ah, lots of them
when they begun life were no more than I be now!"
"Henchard!" said Elizabeth-Jane, surprised, but by no means suspecting
the whole force of the revelation. She ascended to the top of the steps.
Her mother, though her head was bowed, had already caught from the
inn-window tones that strangely riveted her attention, before the old
man's words, "Mr. Henchard, the Mayor," reached her ears. She arose,
and stepped up to her daughter's side as soon as she could do so without
showing exceptional eagerness.
The interior of the hotel dining-room was spread out before her, with
its tables, and glass, and plate, and inmates. Facing the window, in the
chair of dignity, sat a man about forty years of age; of heavy frame,
large features, and commanding voice; his general build being rather
coarse than compact. He had a rich complexion, which verged on
swarthiness, a flashing black eye, and dark, bushy brows and hair. When
he indulged in an occasional loud laugh at some remark among the
guests, his large mouth parted so far back as to show to the rays of the
chandelier a full score or more of the two-and-thirty sound white teeth
that he obviously still could boast of.
That laugh was not encouraging to strangers, and hence it may have been
well that it was rarely heard. Many theories might have been built upon
it. It fell in well with conjectures of a temperament which would have
no pity for weakness, but would be ready to yield ungrudging admiration
to greatness and strength. Its producer's personal goodness, if he had
any, would be of a very fitful cast--an occasional almost oppressive
generosity rather than a mild and constant kindness.
Susan Henchard's husband--in law, at least--sat before them, matured
in shape, stiffened in line, exaggerated in traits; disciplined,
thought-marked--in a word, older. Elizabeth, encumbered with no
recollections as her mother was, regarded him with nothing more than
the keen curiosity and interest which the discovery of such unexpected
social standing in the long-sought relative naturally begot. He was
dressed in an old-fashioned evening suit, an expanse of frilled shirt
showing on his broad breast; jewelled studs, and a heavy gold chain.
Three glasses stood at his right hand; but, to his wife's surprise, the
two for wine were empty, while the third, a tumbler, was half full of
When last she had seen him he was sitting in a corduroy jacket, fustian
waistcoat and breeches, and tanned leather leggings, with a basin of hot
furmity before him. Time, the magician, had wrought much here. Watching
him, and thus thinking of past days, she became so moved that she shrank
back against the jamb of the waggon-office doorway to which the steps
gave access, the shadow from it conveniently hiding her features. She
forgot her daughter till a touch from Elizabeth-Jane aroused her. "Have
you seen him, mother?" whispered the girl.
"Yes, yes," answered her companion hastily. "I have seen him, and it is
enough for me! Now I only want to go--pass away--die."
"Why--O what?" She drew closer, and whispered in her mother's ear, "Does
he seem to you not likely to befriend us? I thought he looked a generous
man. What a gentleman he is, isn't he? and how his diamond studs shine!
How strange that you should have said he might be in the stocks, or in
the workhouse, or dead! Did ever anything go more by contraries! Why do
you feel so afraid of him? I am not at all; I'll call upon him--he can
but say he don't own such remote kin."
"I don't know at all--I can't tell what to set about. I feel so down."
"Don't be that, mother, now we have got here and all! Rest there where
you be a little while--I will look on and find out more about him."
"I don't think I can ever meet Mr. Henchard. He is not how I thought he
would be--he overpowers me! I don't wish to see him any more."
"But wait a little time and consider."
Elizabeth-Jane had never been so much interested in anything in her life
as in their present position, partly from the natural elation she felt
at discovering herself akin to a coach; and she gazed again at the
scene. The younger guests were talking and eating with animation; their
elders were searching for titbits, and sniffing and grunting over their
plates like sows nuzzling for acorns. Three drinks seemed to be sacred
to the company--port, sherry, and rum; outside which old-established
trinity few or no palates ranged.
A row of ancient rummers with ground figures on their sides, and each
primed with a spoon, was now placed down the table, and these were
promptly filled with grog at such high temperatures as to raise
serious considerations for the articles exposed to its vapours. But
Elizabeth-Jane noticed that, though this filling went on with great
promptness up and down the table, nobody filled the Mayor's glass, who
still drank large quantities of water from the tumbler behind the clump
of crystal vessels intended for wine and spirits.
"They don't fill Mr. Henchard's wine-glasses," she ventured to say to
her elbow acquaintance, the old man.
"Ah, no; don't ye know him to be the celebrated abstaining worthy of
that name? He scorns all tempting liquors; never touches nothing. O
yes, he've strong qualities that way. I have heard tell that he sware
a gospel oath in bygone times, and has bode by it ever since. So they
don't press him, knowing it would be unbecoming in the face of that: for
yer gospel oath is a serious thing."
Another elderly man, hearing this discourse, now joined in by inquiring,
"How much longer have he got to suffer from it, Solomon Longways?"
"Another two year, they say. I don't know the why and the wherefore of
his fixing such a time, for 'a never has told anybody. But 'tis exactly
two calendar years longer, they say. A powerful mind to hold out so
"True....But there's great strength in hope. Knowing that in
four-and-twenty months' time ye'll be out of your bondage, and able to
make up for all you've suffered, by partaking without stint--why, it
keeps a man up, no doubt."
"No doubt, Christopher Coney, no doubt. And 'a must need such
reflections--a lonely widow man," said Longways.
"When did he lose his wife?" asked Elizabeth.
"I never knowed her. 'Twas afore he came to Casterbridge," Solomon
Longways replied with terminative emphasis, as if the fact of his
ignorance of Mrs. Henchard were sufficient to deprive her history of all
interest. "But I know that 'a's a banded teetotaller, and that if any of
his men be ever so little overtook by a drop he's down upon 'em as stern
as the Lord upon the jovial Jews."
"Has he many men, then?" said Elizabeth-Jane.
"Many! Why, my good maid, he's the powerfullest member of the Town
Council, and quite a principal man in the country round besides. Never
a big dealing in wheat, barley, oats, hay, roots, and such-like but
Henchard's got a hand in it. Ay, and he'll go into other things too;
and that's where he makes his mistake. He worked his way up from nothing
when 'a came here; and now he's a pillar of the town. Not but what he's
been shaken a little to-year about this bad corn he has supplied in
his contracts. I've seen the sun rise over Durnover Moor these
nine-and-sixty year, and though Mr. Henchard has never cussed me
unfairly ever since I've worked for'n, seeing I be but a little small
man, I must say that I have never before tasted such rough bread as has
been made from Henchard's wheat lately. 'Tis that growed out that ye
could a'most call it malt, and there's a list at bottom o' the loaf as
thick as the sole of one's shoe."
The band now struck up another melody, and by the time it was ended the
dinner was over, and speeches began to be made. The evening being calm,
and the windows still open, these orations could be distinctly heard.
Henchard's voice arose above the rest; he was telling a story of his
hay-dealing experiences, in which he had outwitted a sharper who had
been bent upon outwitting him.
"Ha-ha-ha!" responded his audience at the upshot of the story; and
hilarity was general till a new voice arose with, "This is all very
well; but how about the bad bread?"
It came from the lower end of the table, where there sat a group of
minor tradesmen who, although part of the company, appeared to be a
little below the social level of the others; and who seemed to nourish
a certain independence of opinion and carry on discussions not quite
in harmony with those at the head; just as the west end of a church
is sometimes persistently found to sing out of time and tune with the
leading spirits in the chancel.
This interruption about the bad bread afforded infinite satisfaction to
the loungers outside, several of whom were in the mood which finds its
pleasure in others' discomfiture; and hence they echoed pretty freely,
"Hey! How about the bad bread, Mr. Mayor?" Moreover, feeling none of the
restraints of those who shared the feast, they could afford to add, "You
rather ought to tell the story o' that, sir!"
The interruption was sufficient to compel the Mayor to notice it.
"Well, I admit that the wheat turned out badly," he said. "But I was
taken in in buying it as much as the bakers who bought it o' me."
"And the poor folk who had to eat it whether or no," said the
inharmonious man outside the window.
Henchard's face darkened. There was temper under the thin bland
surface--the temper which, artificially intensified, had banished a wife
nearly a score of years before.
"You must make allowances for the accidents of a large business," he
said. "You must bear in mind that the weather just at the harvest of
that corn was worse than we have known it for years. However, I have
mended my arrangements on account o't. Since I have found my business
too large to be well looked after by myself alone, I have advertised for
a thorough good man as manager of the corn department. When I've got
him you will find these mistakes will no longer occur--matters will be
better looked into."
"But what are you going to do to repay us for the past?" inquired the
man who had before spoken, and who seemed to be a baker or miller. "Will
you replace the grown flour we've still got by sound grain?"
Henchard's face had become still more stern at these interruptions, and
he drank from his tumbler of water as if to calm himself or gain time.
Instead of vouchsafing a direct reply, he stiffly observed--
"If anybody will tell me how to turn grown wheat into wholesome wheat
I'll take it back with pleasure. But it can't be done."
Henchard was not to be drawn again. Having said this, he sat down.
Now the group outside the window had within the last few minutes been
reinforced by new arrivals, some of them respectable shopkeepers and
their assistants, who had come out for a whiff of air after putting up
the shutters for the night; some of them of a lower class. Distinct from
either there appeared a stranger--a young man of remarkably pleasant
aspect--who carried in his hand a carpet-bag of the smart floral pattern
prevalent in such articles at that time.
He was ruddy and of a fair countenance, bright-eyed, and slight in
build. He might possibly have passed by without stopping at all, or at
most for half a minute to glance in at the scene, had not his advent
coincided with the discussion on corn and bread, in which event this
history had never been enacted. But the subject seemed to arrest him,
and he whispered some inquiries of the other bystanders, and remained
When he heard Henchard's closing words, "It can't be done," he smiled
impulsively, drew out his pocketbook, and wrote down a few words by
the aid of the light in the window. He tore out the leaf, folded and
directed it, and seemed about to throw it in through the open sash upon
the dining-table; but, on second thoughts, edged himself through the
loiterers, till he reached the door of the hotel, where one of the
waiters who had been serving inside was now idly leaning against the
"Give this to the Mayor at once," he said, handing in his hasty note.
Elizabeth-Jane had seen his movements and heard the words, which
attracted her both by their subject and by their accent--a strange one
for those parts. It was quaint and northerly.
The waiter took the note, while the young stranger continued--
"And can ye tell me of a respectable hotel that's a little more moderate
The waiter glanced indifferently up and down the street.
"They say the Three Mariners, just below here, is a very good place," he
languidly answered; "but I have never stayed there myself."
The Scotchman, as he seemed to be, thanked him, and strolled on in the
direction of the Three Mariners aforesaid, apparently more concerned
about the question of an inn than about the fate of his note, now that
the momentary impulse of writing it was over. While he was disappearing
slowly down the street the waiter left the door, and Elizabeth-Jane saw
with some interest the note brought into the dining-room and handed to
Henchard looked at it carelessly, unfolded it with one hand, and glanced
it through. Thereupon it was curious to note an unexpected effect. The
nettled, clouded aspect which had held possession of his face since the
subject of his corn-dealings had been broached, changed itself into one
of arrested attention. He read the note slowly, and fell into thought,
not moody, but fitfully intense, as that of a man who has been captured
by an idea.
By this time toasts and speeches had given place to songs, the wheat
subject being quite forgotten. Men were putting their heads together in
twos and threes, telling good stories, with pantomimic laughter which
reached convulsive grimace. Some were beginning to look as if they did
not know how they had come there, what they had come for, or how they
were going to get home again; and provisionally sat on with a dazed
smile. Square-built men showed a tendency to become hunchbacks; men with
a dignified presence lost it in a curious obliquity of figure, in which
their features grew disarranged and one-sided, whilst the heads of a few
who had dined with extreme thoroughness were somehow sinking into their
shoulders, the corners of their mouth and eyes being bent upwards by the
subsidence. Only Henchard did not conform to these flexuous changes; he
remained stately and vertical, silently thinking.
The clock struck nine. Elizabeth-Jane turned to her companion. "The
evening is drawing on, mother," she said. "What do you propose to do?"
She was surprised to find how irresolute her mother had become. "We must
get a place to lie down in," she murmured. "I have seen--Mr. Henchard;
and that's all I wanted to do."
"That's enough for to-night, at any rate," Elizabeth-Jane replied
soothingly. "We can think to-morrow what is best to do about him. The
question now is--is it not?--how shall we find a lodging?"
As her mother did not reply Elizabeth-Jane's mind reverted to the words
of the waiter, that the Three Mariners was an inn of moderate charges. A
recommendation good for one person was probably good for another. "Let's
go where the young man has gone to," she said. "He is respectable. What
do you say?"
Her mother assented, and down the street they went.
In the meantime the Mayor's thoughtfulness, engendered by the note as
stated, continued to hold him in abstraction; till, whispering to his
neighbour to take his place, he found opportunity to leave the chair.
This was just after the departure of his wife and Elizabeth.
Outside the door of the assembly-room he saw the waiter, and beckoning
to him asked who had brought the note which had been handed in a quarter
of an hour before.
"A young man, sir--a sort of traveller. He was a Scotchman seemingly."
"Did he say how he had got it?"
"He wrote it himself, sir, as he stood outside the window."
"Oh--wrote it himself....Is the young man in the hotel?"
"No, sir. He went to the Three Mariners, I believe."
The mayor walked up and down the vestibule of the hotel with his hands
under his coat tails, as if he were merely seeking a cooler atmosphere
than that of the room he had quitted. But there could be no doubt that
he was in reality still possessed to the full by the new idea, whatever
that might be. At length he went back to the door of the dining-room,
paused, and found that the songs, toasts, and conversation were
proceeding quite satisfactorily without his presence. The Corporation,
private residents, and major and minor tradesmen had, in fact, gone
in for comforting beverages to such an extent that they had quite
forgotten, not only the Mayor, but all those vast, political, religious,
and social differences which they felt necessary to maintain in the
daytime, and which separated them like iron grills. Seeing this the
Mayor took his hat, and when the waiter had helped him on with a thin
holland overcoat, went out and stood under the portico.
Very few persons were now in the street; and his eyes, by a sort of
attraction, turned and dwelt upon a spot about a hundred yards further
down. It was the house to which the writer of the note had gone--the
Three Mariners--whose two prominent Elizabethan gables, bow-window, and
passage-light could be seen from where he stood. Having kept his eyes on
it for a while he strolled in that direction.
This ancient house of accommodation for man and beast, now,
unfortunately, pulled down, was built of mellow sandstone, with
mullioned windows of the same material, markedly out of perpendicular
from the settlement of foundations. The bay window projecting into the
street, whose interior was so popular among the frequenters of the
inn, was closed with shutters, in each of which appeared a heart-shaped
aperture, somewhat more attenuated in the right and left ventricles
than is seen in Nature. Inside these illuminated holes, at a distance of
about three inches, were ranged at this hour, as every passer knew, the
ruddy polls of Billy Wills the glazier, Smart the shoemaker, Buzzford
the general dealer, and others of a secondary set of worthies, of a
grade somewhat below that of the diners at the King's Arms, each with
his yard of clay.
A four-centred Tudor arch was over the entrance, and over the arch
the signboard, now visible in the rays of an opposite lamp. Hereon
the Mariners, who had been represented by the artist as persons of two
dimensions only--in other words, flat as a shadow--were standing in a
row in paralyzed attitudes. Being on the sunny side of the street the
three comrades had suffered largely from warping, splitting, fading, and
shrinkage, so that they were but a half-invisible film upon the reality
of the grain, and knots, and nails, which composed the signboard. As a
matter of fact, this state of things was not so much owing to Stannidge
the landlord's neglect, as from the lack of a painter in Casterbridge
who would undertake to reproduce the features of men so traditional.
A long, narrow, dimly-lit passage gave access to the inn, within which
passage the horses going to their stalls at the back, and the coming and
departing human guests, rubbed shoulders indiscriminately, the latter
running no slight risk of having their toes trodden upon by the animals.
The good stabling and the good ale of the Mariners, though somewhat
difficult to reach on account of there being but this narrow way to
both, were nevertheless perseveringly sought out by the sagacious old
heads who knew what was what in Casterbridge.
Henchard stood without the inn for a few instants; then lowering the
dignity of his presence as much as possible by buttoning the brown
holland coat over his shirt-front, and in other ways toning himself down
to his ordinary everyday appearance, he entered the inn door.
Elizabeth-Jane and her mother had arrived some twenty minutes earlier.
Outside the house they had stood and considered whether even this homely
place, though recommended as moderate, might not be too serious in its
prices for their light pockets. Finally, however, they had found courage
to enter, and duly met Stannidge the landlord, a silent man, who drew
and carried frothing measures to this room and to that, shoulder to
shoulder with his waiting-maids--a stately slowness, however, entering
into his ministrations by contrast with theirs, as became one whose
service was somewhat optional. It would have been altogether optional
but for the orders of the landlady, a person who sat in the bar,
corporeally motionless, but with a flitting eye and quick ear, with
which she observed and heard through the open door and hatchway the
pressing needs of customers whom her husband overlooked though close at
hand. Elizabeth and her mother were passively accepted as sojourners,
and shown to a small bedroom under one of the gables, where they sat
The principle of the inn seemed to be to compensate for the antique
awkwardness, crookedness, and obscurity of the passages, floors, and
windows, by quantities of clean linen spread about everywhere, and this
had a dazzling effect upon the travellers.
"'Tis too good for us--we can't meet it!" said the elder woman, looking
round the apartment with misgiving as soon as they were left alone.
"I fear it is, too," said Elizabeth. "But we must be respectable."
"We must pay our way even before we must be respectable," replied her
mother. "Mr. Henchard is too high for us to make ourselves known to him,
I much fear; so we've only our own pockets to depend on."
"I know what I'll do," said Elizabeth-Jane after an interval of waiting,
during which their needs seemed quite forgotten under the press of
business below. And leaving the room, she descended the stairs and
penetrated to the bar.
If there was one good thing more than another which characterized this
single-hearted girl it was a willingness to sacrifice her personal
comfort and dignity to the common weal.
"As you seem busy here to-night, and mother's not well off, might I take
out part of our accommodation by helping?" she asked of the landlady.
The latter, who remained as fixed in the arm-chair as if she had been
melted into it when in a liquid state, and could not now be unstuck,
looked the girl up and down inquiringly, with her hands on the
chair-arms. Such arrangements as the one Elizabeth proposed were
not uncommon in country villages; but, though Casterbridge was
old-fashioned, the custom was well-nigh obsolete here. The mistress
of the house, however, was an easy woman to strangers, and she made no
objection. Thereupon Elizabeth, being instructed by nods and motions
from the taciturn landlord as to where she could find the different
things, trotted up and down stairs with materials for her own and her
While she was doing this the wood partition in the centre of the house
thrilled to its centre with the tugging of a bell-pull upstairs. A bell
below tinkled a note that was feebler in sound than the twanging of
wires and cranks that had produced it.
"'Tis the Scotch gentleman," said the landlady omnisciently; and turning
her eyes to Elizabeth, "Now then, can you go and see if his supper is on
the tray? If it is you can take it up to him. The front room over this."
Elizabeth-Jane, though hungry, willingly postponed serving herself
awhile, and applied to the cook in the kitchen whence she brought
forth the tray of supper viands, and proceeded with it upstairs to the
apartment indicated. The accommodation of the Three Mariners was far
from spacious, despite the fair area of ground it covered. The
room demanded by intrusive beams and rafters, partitions, passages,
staircases, disused ovens, settles, and four-posters, left comparatively
small quarters for human beings. Moreover, this being at a time before
home-brewing was abandoned by the smaller victuallers, and a house in
which the twelve-bushel strength was still religiously adhered to by the
landlord in his ale, the quality of the liquor was the chief attraction
of the premises, so that everything had to make way for utensils and
operations in connection therewith. Thus Elizabeth found that the
Scotchman was located in a room quite close to the small one that had
been allotted to herself and her mother.
When she entered nobody was present but the young man himself--the
same whom she had seen lingering without the windows of the King's Arms
Hotel. He was now idly reading a copy of the local paper, and was hardly
conscious of her entry, so that she looked at him quite coolly, and saw
how his forehead shone where the light caught it, and how nicely his
hair was cut, and the sort of velvet-pile or down that was on the skin
at the back of his neck, and how his cheek was so truly curved as to be
part of a globe, and how clearly drawn were the lids and lashes which
hid his bent eyes.
She set down the tray, spread his supper, and went away without a word.
On her arrival below the landlady, who was as kind as she was fat
and lazy, saw that Elizabeth-Jane was rather tired, though in her
earnestness to be useful she was waiving her own needs altogether. Mrs.
Stannidge thereupon said with a considerate peremptoriness that she and
her mother had better take their own suppers if they meant to have any.
Elizabeth fetched their simple provisions, as she had fetched the
Scotchman's, and went up to the little chamber where she had left her
mother, noiselessly pushing open the door with the edge of the tray. To
her surprise her mother, instead of being reclined on the bed where she
had left her was in an erect position, with lips parted. At Elizabeth's
entry she lifted her finger.
The meaning of this was soon apparent. The room allotted to the two
women had at one time served as a dressing-room to the Scotchman's
chamber, as was evidenced by signs of a door of communication between
them--now screwed up and pasted over with the wall paper. But, as is
frequently the case with hotels of far higher pretensions than the Three
Mariners, every word spoken in either of these rooms was distinctly
audible in the other. Such sounds came through now.
Thus silently conjured Elizabeth deposited the tray, and her mother
whispered as she drew near, "'Tis he."
"Who?" said the girl.
The tremors in Susan Henchard's tone might have led any person but one
so perfectly unsuspicious of the truth as the girl was, to surmise
some closer connection than the admitted simple kinship as a means of
accounting for them.
Two men were indeed talking in the adjoining chamber, the young
Scotchman and Henchard, who, having entered the inn while Elizabeth-Jane
was in the kitchen waiting for the supper, had been deferentially
conducted upstairs by host Stannidge himself. The girl noiselessly laid
out their little meal, and beckoned to her mother to join her, which
Mrs. Henchard mechanically did, her attention being fixed on the
conversation through the door.
"I merely strolled in on my way home to ask you a question about
something that has excited my curiosity," said the Mayor, with careless
geniality. "But I see you have not finished supper."
"Ay, but I will be done in a little! Ye needn't go, sir. Take a seat.
I've almost done, and it makes no difference at all."
Henchard seemed to take the seat offered, and in a moment he resumed:
"Well, first I should ask, did you write this?" A rustling of paper
"Yes, I did," said the Scotchman.
"Then," said Henchard, "I am under the impression that we have met by
accident while waiting for the morning to keep an appointment with each
other? My name is Henchard, ha'n't you replied to an advertisement for a
corn-factor's manager that I put into the paper--ha'n't you come here to
see me about it?"
"No," said the Scotchman, with some surprise.
"Surely you are the man," went on Henchard insistingly, "who arranged to
come and see me? Joshua, Joshua, Jipp--Jopp--what was his name?"
"You're wrong!" said the young man. "My name is Donald Farfrae. It is
true I am in the corren trade--but I have replied to no advertisement,
and arranged to see no one. I am on my way to Bristol--from there to the
other side of the warrld, to try my fortune in the great wheat-growing
districts of the West! I have some inventions useful to the trade, and
there is no scope for developing them heere."
"To America--well, well," said Henchard, in a tone of disappointment, so
strong as to make itself felt like a damp atmosphere. "And yet I could
have sworn you were the man!"
The Scotchman murmured another negative, and there was a silence, till
Henchard resumed: "Then I am truly and sincerely obliged to you for the
few words you wrote on that paper."
"It was nothing, sir."
"Well, it has a great importance for me just now. This row about my
grown wheat, which I declare to Heaven I didn't know to be bad till the
people came complaining, has put me to my wits' end. I've some hundreds
of quarters of it on hand; and if your renovating process will make it
wholesome, why, you can see what a quag 'twould get me out of. I saw
in a moment there might be truth in it. But I should like to have it
proved; and of course you don't care to tell the steps of the process
sufficiently for me to do that, without my paying ye well for't first."
The young man reflected a moment or two. "I don't know that I have any
objection," he said. "I'm going to another country, and curing bad
corn is not the line I'll take up there. Yes, I'll tell ye the whole of
it--you'll make more out of it heere than I will in a foreign country.
Just look heere a minute, sir. I can show ye by a sample in my
The click of a lock followed, and there was a sifting and rustling;
then a discussion about so many ounces to the bushel, and drying, and
refrigerating, and so on.
"These few grains will be sufficient to show ye with," came in the young
fellow's voice; and after a pause, during which some operation seemed
to be intently watched by them both, he exclaimed, "There, now, do you
"It's complete!--quite restored, or--well--nearly."
"Quite enough restored to make good seconds out of it," said the
Scotchman. "To fetch it back entirely is impossible; Nature won't stand
so much as that, but heere you go a great way towards it. Well, sir,
that's the process, I don't value it, for it can be but of little use
in countries where the weather is more settled than in ours; and I'll be
only too glad if it's of service to you."
"But hearken to me," pleaded Henchard. "My business you know, is in corn
and in hay, but I was brought up as a hay-trusser simply, and hay is
what I understand best though I now do more in corn than in the other.
If you'll accept the place, you shall manage the corn branch entirely,
and receive a commission in addition to salary."
"You're liberal--very liberal, but no, no--I cannet!" the young man
still replied, with some distress in his accents.
"So be it!" said Henchard conclusively. "Now--to change the subject--one
good turn deserves another; don't stay to finish that miserable supper.
Come to my house, I can find something better for 'ee than cold ham and
Donald Farfrae was grateful--said he feared he must decline--that he
wished to leave early next day.
"Very well," said Henchard quickly, "please yourself. But I tell you,
young man, if this holds good for the bulk, as it has done for the
sample, you have saved my credit, stranger though you be. What shall I
pay you for this knowledge?"
"Nothing at all, nothing at all. It may not prove necessary to ye to use
it often, and I don't value it at all. I thought I might just as well
let ye know, as you were in a difficulty, and they were harrd upon ye."
Henchard paused. "I shan't soon forget this," he said. "And from a
stranger!... I couldn't believe you were not the man I had engaged! Says
I to myself, 'He knows who I am, and recommends himself by this stroke.'
And yet it turns out, after all, that you are not the man who answered
my advertisement, but a stranger!"
"Ay, ay; that's so," said the young man.
Henchard again suspended his words, and then his voice came
thoughtfully: "Your forehead, Farfrae, is something like my poor
brother's--now dead and gone; and the nose, too, isn't unlike his. You
must be, what--five foot nine, I reckon? I am six foot one and a half
out of my shoes. But what of that? In my business, 'tis true that
strength and bustle build up a firm. But judgment and knowledge are what
keep it established. Unluckily, I am bad at science, Farfrae; bad at
figures--a rule o' thumb sort of man. You are just the reverse--I can
see that. I have been looking for such as you these two year, and yet
you are not for me. Well, before I go, let me ask this: Though you are
not the young man I thought you were, what's the difference? Can't
ye stay just the same? Have you really made up your mind about this
American notion? I won't mince matters. I feel you would be invaluable
to me--that needn't be said--and if you will bide and be my manager, I
will make it worth your while."
"My plans are fixed," said the young man, in negative tones. "I have
formed a scheme, and so we need na say any more about it. But will you
not drink with me, sir? I find this Casterbridge ale warreming to the
"No, no; I fain would, but I can't," said Henchard gravely, the scraping
of his chair informing the listeners that he was rising to leave. "When
I was a young man I went in for that sort of thing too strong--far too
strong--and was well-nigh ruined by it! I did a deed on account of it
which I shall be ashamed of to my dying day. It made such an impression
on me that I swore, there and then, that I'd drink nothing stronger than
tea for as many years as I was old that day. I have kept my oath; and
though, Farfrae, I am sometimes that dry in the dog days that I could
drink a quarter-barrel to the pitching, I think o' my oath, and touch no
strong drink at all."
"I'll no' press ye, sir--I'll no' press ye. I respect your vow.
"Well, I shall get a manager somewhere, no doubt," said Henchard, with
strong feeling in his tones. "But it will be long before I see one that
would suit me so well!"
The young man appeared much moved by Henchard's warm convictions of
his value. He was silent till they reached the door. "I wish I could
stay--sincerely I would like to," he replied. "But no--it cannet be! it
cannet! I want to see the warrld."
Thus they parted; and Elizabeth-Jane and her mother remained each in her
thoughts over their meal, the mother's face being strangely bright
since Henchard's avowal of shame for a past action. The quivering of the
partition to its core presented denoted that Donald Farfrae had again
rung his bell, no doubt to have his supper removed; for humming a tune,
and walking up and down, he seemed to be attracted by the lively bursts
of conversation and melody from the general company below. He sauntered
out upon the landing, and descended the staircase.
When Elizabeth-Jane had carried down his supper tray, and also that used
by her mother and herself, she found the bustle of serving to be at its
height below, as it always was at this hour. The young woman shrank from
having anything to do with the ground-floor serving, and crept silently
about observing the scene--so new to her, fresh from the seclusion of
a seaside cottage. In the general sitting-room, which was large, she
remarked the two or three dozen strong-backed chairs that stood round
against the wall, each fitted with its genial occupant; the sanded
floor; the black settle which, projecting endwise from the wall within
the door, permitted Elizabeth to be a spectator of all that went on
without herself being particularly seen.
The young Scotchman had just joined the guests. These, in addition to
the respectable master-tradesmen occupying the seats of privileges in
the bow-window and its neighbourhood, included an inferior set at the
unlighted end, whose seats were mere benches against the wall, and who
drank from cups instead of from glasses. Among the latter she noticed
some of those personages who had stood outside the windows of the King's
Behind their backs was a small window, with a wheel ventilator in one
of the panes, which would suddenly start off spinning with a jingling
sound, as suddenly stop, and as suddenly start again.
While thus furtively making her survey the opening words of a song
greeted her ears from the front of the settle, in a melody and accent
of peculiar charm. There had been some singing before she came down; and
now the Scotchman had made himself so soon at home that, at the request
of some of the master-tradesmen, he, too, was favouring the room with a
Elizabeth-Jane was fond of music; she could not help pausing to listen;
and the longer she listened the more she was enraptured. She had never
heard any singing like this and it was evident that the majority of the
audience had not heard such frequently, for they were attentive to a
much greater degree than usual. They neither whispered, nor drank, nor
dipped their pipe-stems in their ale to moisten them, nor pushed the mug
to their neighbours. The singer himself grew emotional, till she could
imagine a tear in his eye as the words went on:--
"It's hame, and it's hame, hame fain would I be,
O hame, hame, hame to my ain countree!
There's an eye that ever weeps, and a fair face will be fain,
As I pass through Annan Water with my bonnie bands again;
When the flower is in the bud, and the leaf upon the tree,
The lark shall sing me hame to my ain countree!"
There was a burst of applause, and a deep silence which was even more
eloquent than the applause. It was of such a kind that the snapping of a
pipe-stem too long for him by old Solomon Longways, who was one of those
gathered at the shady end of the room, seemed a harsh and irreverent
act. Then the ventilator in the window-pane spasmodically started off
for a new spin, and the pathos of Donald's song was temporarily effaced.
"'Twas not amiss--not at all amiss!" muttered Christopher Coney, who was
also present. And removing his pipe a finger's breadth from his lips, he
said aloud, "Draw on with the next verse, young gentleman, please."
"Yes. Let's have it again, stranger," said the glazier, a stout,
bucket-headed man, with a white apron rolled up round his waist. "Folks
don't lift up their hearts like that in this part of the world." And
turning aside, he said in undertones, "Who is the young man?--Scotch,
"Yes, straight from the mountains of Scotland, I believe," replied
Young Farfrae repeated the last verse. It was plain that nothing so
pathetic had been heard at the Three Mariners for a considerable time.
The difference of accent, the excitability of the singer, the intense
local feeling, and the seriousness with which he worked himself up to a
climax, surprised this set of worthies, who were only too prone to shut
up their emotions with caustic words.
"Danged if our country down here is worth singing about like that!"
continued the glazier, as the Scotchman again melodized with a dying
fall, "My ain countree!" "When you take away from among us the fools
and the rogues, and the lammigers, and the wanton hussies, and the
slatterns, and such like, there's cust few left to ornament a song with
in Casterbridge, or the country round."
"True," said Buzzford, the dealer, looking at the grain of the table.
"Casterbridge is a old, hoary place o' wickedness, by all account. 'Tis
recorded in history that we rebelled against the King one or two hundred
years ago, in the time of the Romans, and that lots of us was hanged
on Gallows Hill, and quartered, and our different jints sent about the
country like butcher's meat; and for my part I can well believe it."
"What did ye come away from yer own country for, young maister, if ye be
so wownded about it?" inquired Christopher Coney, from the background,
with the tone of a man who preferred the original subject. "Faith, it
wasn't worth your while on our account, for as Maister Billy Wills says,
we be bruckle folk here--the best o' us hardly honest sometimes, what
with hard winters, and so many mouths to fill, and Goda'mighty sending
his little taties so terrible small to fill 'em with. We don't
think about flowers and fair faces, not we--except in the shape o'
cauliflowers and pigs' chaps."
"But, no!" said Donald Farfrae, gazing round into their faces with
earnest concern; "the best of ye hardly honest--not that surely? None of
ye has been stealing what didn't belong to him?"
"Lord! no, no!" said Solomon Longways, smiling grimly. "That's only his
random way o' speaking. 'A was always such a man of underthoughts." (And
reprovingly towards Christopher): "Don't ye be so over-familiar with a
gentleman that ye know nothing of--and that's travelled a'most from the
Christopher Coney was silenced, and as he could get no public sympathy,
he mumbled his feelings to himself: "Be dazed, if I loved my country
half as well as the young feller do, I'd live by claning my neighbour's
pigsties afore I'd go away! For my part I've no more love for my country
than I have for Botany Bay!"
"Come," said Longways; "let the young man draw onward with his ballet,
or we shall be here all night."
"That's all of it," said the singer apologetically.
"Soul of my body, then we'll have another!" said the general dealer.
"Can you turn a strain to the ladies, sir?" inquired a fat woman with
a figured purple apron, the waiststring of which was overhung so far by
her sides as to be invisible.
"Let him breathe--let him breathe, Mother Cuxsom. He hain't got his
second wind yet," said the master glazier.
"Oh yes, but I have!" exclaimed the young man; and he at once rendered
"O Nannie" with faultless modulations, and another or two of the like
sentiment, winding up at their earnest request with "Auld Lang Syne."
By this time he had completely taken possession of the hearts of the
Three Mariners' inmates, including even old Coney. Notwithstanding an
occasional odd gravity which awoke their sense of the ludicrous for the
moment, they began to view him through a golden haze which the tone
of his mind seemed to raise around him. Casterbridge had
sentiment--Casterbridge had romance; but this stranger's sentiment was
of differing quality. Or rather, perhaps, the difference was mainly
superficial; he was to them like the poet of a new school who takes
his contemporaries by storm; who is not really new, but is the first
to articulate what all his listeners have felt, though but dumbly till
The silent landlord came and leant over the settle while the young
man sang; and even Mrs. Stannidge managed to unstick herself from the
framework of her chair in the bar and get as far as the door-post,
which movement she accomplished by rolling herself round, as a cask
is trundled on the chine by a drayman without losing much of its
"And are you going to bide in Casterbridge, sir?" she asked.
"Ah--no!" said the Scotchman, with melancholy fatality in his voice,
"I'm only passing thirrough! I am on my way to Bristol, and on frae
there to foreign parts."
"We be truly sorry to hear it," said Solomon Longways. "We can ill
afford to lose tuneful wynd-pipes like yours when they fall among us.
And verily, to mak' acquaintance with a man a-come from so far, from the
land o' perpetual snow, as we may say, where wolves and wild boars and
other dangerous animalcules be as common as blackbirds here-about--why,
'tis a thing we can't do every day; and there's good sound information
for bide-at-homes like we when such a man opens his mouth."
"Nay, but ye mistake my country," said the young man, looking round upon
them with tragic fixity, till his eye lighted up and his cheek kindled
with a sudden enthusiasm to right their errors. "There are not perpetual
snow and wolves at all in it!--except snow in winter, and--well--a
little in summer just sometimes, and a 'gaberlunzie' or two stalking
about here and there, if ye may call them dangerous. Eh, but you should
take a summer jarreny to Edinboro', and Arthur's Seat, and all round
there, and then go on to the lochs, and all the Highland scenery--in May
and June--and you would never say 'tis the land of wolves and perpetual
"Of course not--it stands to reason," said Buzzford. "'Tis barren
ignorance that leads to such words. He's a simple home-spun man, that
never was fit for good company--think nothing of him, sir."
"And do ye carry your flock bed, and your quilt, and your crock, and
your bit of chiney? or do ye go in bare bones, as I may say?" inquired
"I've sent on my luggage--though it isn't much; for the voyage is long."
Donald's eyes dropped into a remote gaze as he added: "But I said to
myself, 'Never a one of the prizes of life will I come by unless I
undertake it!' and I decided to go."
A general sense of regret, in which Elizabeth-Jane shared not least,
made itself apparent in the company. As she looked at Farfrae from the
back of the settle she decided that his statements showed him to be no
less thoughtful than his fascinating melodies revealed him to be cordial
and impassioned. She admired the serious light in which he looked at
serious things. He had seen no jest in ambiguities and roguery, as the
Casterbridge toss-pots had done; and rightly not--there was none. She
disliked those wretched humours of Christopher Coney and his tribe; and
he did not appreciate them. He seemed to feel exactly as she felt about
life and its surroundings--that they were a tragical rather than a
comical thing; that though one could be gay on occasion, moments
of gaiety were interludes, and no part of the actual drama. It was
extraordinary how similar their views were.
Though it was still early the young Scotchman expressed his wish to
retire, whereupon the landlady whispered to Elizabeth to run upstairs
and turn down his bed. She took a candlestick and proceeded on her
mission, which was the act of a few moments only. When, candle in hand,
she reached the top of the stairs on her way down again, Mr. Farfrae
was at the foot coming up. She could not very well retreat; they met and
passed in the turn of the staircase.
She must have appeared interesting in some way--not-withstanding her
plain dress--or rather, possibly, in consequence of it, for she was
a girl characterized by earnestness and soberness of mien, with which
simple drapery accorded well. Her face flushed, too, at the slight
awkwardness of the meeting, and she passed him with her eyes bent on the
candle-flame that she carried just below her nose. Thus it happened
that when confronting her he smiled; and then, with the manner of a
temporarily light-hearted man, who has started himself on a flight of
song whose momentum he cannot readily check, he softly tuned an old
ditty that she seemed to suggest--
"As I came in by my bower door,
As day was waxin' wearie,
Oh wha came tripping down the stair
But bonnie Peg my dearie."
Elizabeth-Jane, rather disconcerted, hastened on; and the Scotchman's
voice died away, humming more of the same within the closed door of his
Here the scene and sentiment ended for the present. When soon after,
the girl rejoined her mother, the latter was still in thought--on quite
another matter than a young man's song.
"We've made a mistake," she whispered (that the Scotch-man might not
overhear). "On no account ought ye to have helped serve here to-night.
Not because of ourselves, but for the sake of him. If he should befriend
us, and take us up, and then find out what you did when staying here,
'twould grieve and wound his natural pride as Mayor of the town."
Elizabeth, who would perhaps have been more alarmed at this than her
mother had she known the real relationship, was not much disturbed about
it as things stood. Her "he" was another man than her poor mother's.
"For myself," she said, "I didn't at all mind waiting a little upon him.
He's so respectable, and educated--far above the rest of 'em in the inn.
They thought him very simple not to know their grim broad way of talking
about themselves here. But of course he didn't know--he was too refined
in his mind to know such things!" Thus she earnestly pleaded.
Meanwhile, the "he" of her mother was not so far away as even they
thought. After leaving the Three Mariners he had sauntered up and down
the empty High Street, passing and repassing the inn in his promenade.
When the Scotchman sang his voice had reached Henchard's ears through
the heart-shaped holes in the window-shutters, and had led him to pause
outside them a long while.
"To be sure, to be sure, how that fellow does draw me!" he had said to
himself. "I suppose 'tis because I'm so lonely. I'd have given him a
third share in the business to have stayed!"
When Elizabeth-Jane opened the hinged casement next morning the mellow
air brought in the feel of imminent autumn almost as distinctly as if
she had been in the remotest hamlet. Casterbridge was the complement of
the rural life around, not its urban opposite. Bees and butterflies in
the cornfields at the top of the town, who desired to get to the meads
at the bottom, took no circuitous course, but flew straight down High
Street without any apparent consciousness that they were traversing
strange latitudes. And in autumn airy spheres of thistledown floated
into the same street, lodged upon the shop fronts, blew into drains,
and innumerable tawny and yellow leaves skimmed along the pavement, and
stole through people's doorways into their passages with a hesitating
scratch on the floor, like the skirts of timid visitors.
Hearing voices, one of which was close at hand, she withdrew her head
and glanced from behind the window-curtains. Mr. Henchard--now habited
no longer as a great personage, but as a thriving man of business--was
pausing on his way up the middle of the street, and the Scotchman was
looking from the window adjoining her own. Henchard it appeared, had
gone a little way past the inn before he had noticed his acquaintance of
the previous evening. He came back a few steps, Donald Farfrae opening
the window further.
"And you are off soon, I suppose?" said Henchard upwards.
"Yes--almost this moment, sir," said the other. "Maybe I'll walk on till
the coach makes up on me."
"The way ye are going."
"Then shall we walk together to the top o' town?"
"If ye'll wait a minute," said the Scotchman.
In a few minutes the latter emerged, bag in hand. Henchard looked at the
bag as at an enemy. It showed there was no mistake about the young man's
departure. "Ah, my lad," he said, "you should have been a wise man, and
have stayed with me."
"Yes, yes--it might have been wiser," said Donald, looking
microscopically at the houses that were furthest off. "It is only
telling ye the truth when I say my plans are vague."
They had by this time passed on from the precincts of the inn,
and Elizabeth-Jane heard no more. She saw that they continued
in conversation, Henchard turning to the other occasionally, and
emphasizing some remark with a gesture. Thus they passed the King's Arms
Hotel, the Market House, St. Peter's churchyard wall, ascending to the
upper end of the long street till they were small as two grains of corn;
when they bent suddenly to the right into the Bristol Road, and were out
"He was a good man--and he's gone," she said to herself. "I was nothing
to him, and there was no reason why he should have wished me good-bye."
The simple thought, with its latent sense of slight, had moulded itself
out of the following little fact: when the Scotchman came out at the
door he had by accident glanced up at her; and then he had looked away
again without nodding, or smiling, or saying a word.
"You are still thinking, mother," she said, when she turned inwards.
"Yes; I am thinking of Mr. Henchard's sudden liking for that young man.
He was always so. Now, surely, if he takes so warmly to people who are
not related to him at all, may he not take as warmly to his own kin?"
While they debated this question a procession of five large waggons went
past, laden with hay up to the bedroom windows. They came in from the
country, and the steaming horses had probably been travelling a great
part of the night. To the shaft of each hung a little board, on which
was painted in white letters, "Henchard, corn-factor and hay-merchant."
The spectacle renewed his wife's conviction that, for her daughter's
sake, she should strain a point to rejoin him.
The discussion was continued during breakfast, and the end of it was
that Mrs. Henchard decided, for good or for ill, to send Elizabeth-Jane
with a message to Henchard, to the effect that his relative Susan, a
sailor's widow, was in the town; leaving it to him to say whether or not
he would recognize her. What had brought her to this determination were
chiefly two things. He had been described as a lonely widower; and
he had expressed shame for a past transaction of his life. There was
promise in both.
"If he says no," she enjoined, as Elizabeth-Jane stood, bonnet on, ready
to depart; "if he thinks it does not become the good position he has
reached to in the town, to own--to let us call on him as--his distant
kinfolk, say, 'Then, sir, we would rather not intrude; we will leave
Casterbridge as quietly as we have come, and go back to our own
country.'...I almost feel that I would rather he did say so, as I have
not seen him for so many years, and we are so--little allied to him!"
"And if he say yes?" inquired the more sanguine one.
"In that case," answered Mrs. Henchard cautiously, "ask him to write me
a note, saying when and how he will see us--or ME."
Elizabeth-Jane went a few steps towards the landing. "And tell him,"
continued her mother, "that I fully know I have no claim upon him--that
I am glad to find he is thriving; that I hope his life may be long and
happy--there, go." Thus with a half-hearted willingness, a smothered
reluctance, did the poor forgiving woman start her unconscious daughter
on this errand.
It was about ten o'clock, and market-day, when Elizabeth paced up the
High Street, in no great hurry; for to herself her position was only
that of a poor relation deputed to hunt up a rich one. The front doors
of the private houses were mostly left open at this warm autumn time,
no thought of umbrella stealers disturbing the minds of the placid
burgesses. Hence, through the long, straight, entrance passages thus
unclosed could be seen, as through tunnels, the mossy gardens at the
back, glowing with nasturtiums, fuchsias, scarlet geraniums, "bloody
warriors," snapdragons, and dahlias, this floral blaze being backed by
crusted grey stone-work remaining from a yet remoter Casterbridge than
the venerable one visible in the street. The old-fashioned fronts of
these houses, which had older than old-fashioned backs, rose sheer
from the pavement, into which the bow windows protruded like bastions,
necessitating a pleasing chassez-dechassez movement to the time-pressed
pedestrian at every few yards. He was bound also to evolve
other Terpsichorean figures in respect of door-steps, scrapers,
cellar-hatches, church buttresses, and the overhanging angles of walls
which, originally unobtrusive, had become bow-legged and knock-kneed.
In addition to these fixed obstacles which spoke so cheerfully of
individual unrestraint as to boundaries, movables occupied the path and
roadway to a perplexing extent. First the vans of the carriers in
and out of Casterbridge, who hailed from Mellstock, Weatherbury, The
Hintocks, Sherton-Abbas, Kingsbere, Overcombe, and many other towns and
villages round. Their owners were numerous enough to be regarded as a
tribe, and had almost distinctiveness enough to be regarded as a race.
Their vans had just arrived, and were drawn up on each side of the
street in close file, so as to form at places a wall between the
pavement and the roadway. Moreover every shop pitched out half its
contents upon trestles and boxes on the kerb, extending the display
each week a little further and further into the roadway, despite the
expostulations of the two feeble old constables, until there remained
but a tortuous defile for carriages down the centre of the street, which
afforded fine opportunities for skill with the reins. Over the pavement
on the sunny side of the way hung shopblinds so constructed as to give
the passenger's hat a smart buffet off his head, as from the unseen
hands of Cranstoun's Goblin Page, celebrated in romantic lore.
Horses for sale were tied in rows, their forelegs on the pavement, their
hind legs in the street, in which position they occasionally nipped
little boys by the shoulder who were passing to school. And any inviting
recess in front of a house that had been modestly kept back from the
general line was utilized by pig-dealers as a pen for their stock.
The yeomen, farmers, dairymen, and townsfolk, who came to transact
business in these ancient streets, spoke in other ways than by
articulation. Not to hear the words of your interlocutor in metropolitan
centres is to know nothing of his meaning. Here the face, the arms, the
hat, the stick, the body throughout spoke equally with the tongue. To
express satisfaction the Casterbridge market-man added to his utterance
a broadening of the cheeks, a crevicing of the eyes, a throwing back of
the shoulders, which was intelligible from the other end of the street.
If he wondered, though all Henchard's carts and waggons were rattling
past him, you knew it from perceiving the inside of his crimson mouth,
and a target-like circling of his eyes. Deliberation caused sundry
attacks on the moss of adjoining walls with the end of his stick,
a change of his hat from the horizontal to the less so; a sense of
tediousness announced itself in a lowering of the person by spreading
the knees to a lozenge-shaped aperture and contorting the arms.
Chicanery, subterfuge, had hardly a place in the streets of this honest
borough to all appearance; and it was said that the lawyers in the Court
House hard by occasionally threw in strong arguments for the other side
out of pure generosity (though apparently by mischance) when advancing
Thus Casterbridge was in most respects but the pole, focus, or
nerve-knot of the surrounding country life; differing from the many
manufacturing towns which are as foreign bodies set down, like boulders
on a plain, in a green world with which they have nothing in common.
Casterbridge lived by agriculture at one remove further from the
fountainhead than the adjoining villages--no more. The townsfolk
understood every fluctuation in the rustic's condition, for it affected
their receipts as much as the labourer's; they entered into the troubles
and joys which moved the aristocratic families ten miles round--for the
same reason. And even at the dinner-parties of the professional families
the subjects of discussion were corn, cattle-disease, sowing and
reaping, fencing and planting; while politics were viewed by them less
from their own standpoint of burgesses with rights and privileges than
from the standpoint of their country neighbours.
All the venerable contrivances and confusions which delighted the eye
by their quaintness, and in a measure reasonableness, in this rare old
market-town, were metropolitan novelties to the unpractised eyes of
Elizabeth-Jane, fresh from netting fish-seines in a seaside cottage.
Very little inquiry was necessary to guide her footsteps. Henchard's
house was one of the best, faced with dull red-and-grey old brick. The
front door was open, and, as in other houses, she could see through the
passage to the end of the garden--nearly a quarter of a mile off.
Mr. Henchard was not in the house, but in the store-yard. She was
conducted into the mossy garden, and through a door in the wall, which
was studded with rusty nails speaking of generations of fruit-trees that
had been trained there. The door opened upon the yard, and here she was
left to find him as she could. It was a place flanked by hay-barns, into
which tons of fodder, all in trusses, were being packed from the waggons
she had seen pass the inn that morning. On other sides of the yard were
wooden granaries on stone staddles, to which access was given by Flemish
ladders, and a store-house several floors high. Wherever the doors of
these places were open, a closely packed throng of bursting wheat-sacks
could be seen standing inside, with the air of awaiting a famine that
would not come.
She wandered about this place, uncomfortably conscious of the impending
interview, till she was quite weary of searching; she ventured to
inquire of a boy in what quarter Mr. Henchard could be found. He
directed her to an office which she had not seen before, and knocking at
the door she was answered by a cry of "Come in."
Elizabeth turned the handle; and there stood before her, bending over
some sample-bags on a table, not the corn-merchant, but the young
Scotchman Mr. Farfrae--in the act of pouring some grains of wheat from
one hand to the other. His hat hung on a peg behind him, and the roses
of his carpet-bag glowed from the corner of the room.
Having toned her feelings and arranged words on her lips for Mr.
Henchard, and for him alone, she was for the moment confounded.
"Yes, what it is?" said the Scotchman, like a man who permanently ruled
She said she wanted to see Mr. Henchard.
"Ah, yes; will you wait a minute? He's engaged just now," said the young
man, apparently not recognizing her as the girl at the inn. He handed
her a chair, bade her sit down and turned to his sample-bags again.
While Elizabeth-Jane sits waiting in great amaze at the young man's
presence we may briefly explain how he came there.
When the two new acquaintances had passed out of sight that morning
towards the Bath and Bristol road they went on silently, except for a
few commonplaces, till they had gone down an avenue on the town walls
called the Chalk Walk, leading to an angle where the North and West
escarpments met. From this high corner of the square earthworks a vast
extent of country could be seen. A footpath ran steeply down the green
slope, conducting from the shady promenade on the walls to a road at the
bottom of the scarp. It was by this path the Scotchman had to descend.
"Well, here's success to 'ee," said Henchard, holding out his right hand
and leaning with his left upon the wicket which protected the descent.
In the act there was the inelegance of one whose feelings are nipped and
wishes defeated. "I shall often think of this time, and of how you came
at the very moment to throw a light upon my difficulty."
Still holding the young man's hand he paused, and then added
deliberately: "Now I am not the man to let a cause be lost for want of
a word. And before ye are gone for ever I'll speak. Once more, will
ye stay? There it is, flat and plain. You can see that it isn't all
selfishness that makes me press 'ee; for my business is not quite so
scientific as to require an intellect entirely out of the common. Others
would do for the place without doubt. Some selfishness perhaps there
is, but there is more; it isn't for me to repeat what. Come bide with
me--and name your own terms. I'll agree to 'em willingly and 'ithout a
word of gainsaying; for, hang it, Farfrae, I like thee well!"
The young man's hand remained steady in Henchard's for a moment or two.
He looked over the fertile country that stretched beneath them, then
backward along the shaded walk reaching to the top of the town. His face
"I never expected this--I did not!" he said. "It's Providence! Should
any one go against it? No; I'll not go to America; I'll stay and be your
His hand, which had lain lifeless in Henchard's, returned the latter's
"Done," said Henchard.
"Done," said Donald Farfrae.
The face of Mr. Henchard beamed forth a satisfaction that was almost
fierce in its strength. "Now you are my friend!" he exclaimed. "Come
back to my house; let's clinch it at once by clear terms, so as to be
comfortable in our minds." Farfrae caught up his bag and retraced the
North-West Avenue in Henchard's company as he had come. Henchard was all
"I am the most distant fellow in the world when I don't care for a man,"
he said. "But when a man takes my fancy he takes it strong. Now I am
sure you can eat another breakfast? You couldn't have eaten much so
early, even if they had anything at that place to gi'e thee, which they
hadn't; so come to my house and we will have a solid, staunch tuck-in,
and settle terms in black-and-white if you like; though my word's my
bond. I can always make a good meal in the morning. I've got a splendid
cold pigeon-pie going just now. You can have some home-brewed if you
want to, you know."
"It is too airly in the morning for that," said Farfrae with a smile.
"Well, of course, I didn't know. I don't drink it because of my oath,
but I am obliged to brew for my work-people."
Thus talking they returned, and entered Henchard's premises by the back
way or traffic entrance. Here the matter was settled over the breakfast,
at which Henchard heaped the young Scotchman's plate to a prodigal
fulness. He would not rest satisfied till Farfrae had written for his
luggage from Bristol, and dispatched the letter to the post-office. When
it was done this man of strong impulses declared that his new friend
should take up his abode in his house--at least till some suitable
lodgings could be found.
He then took Farfrae round and showed him the place, and the stores
of grain, and other stock; and finally entered the offices where the
younger of them has already been discovered by Elizabeth.
While she still sat under the Scotchman's eyes a man came up to the
door, reaching it as Henchard opened the door of the inner office to
admit Elizabeth. The newcomer stepped forward like the quicker cripple
at Bethesda, and entered in her stead. She could hear his words to
Henchard: "Joshua Jopp, sir--by appointment--the new manager."
"The new manager!--he's in his office," said Henchard bluntly.
"In his office!" said the man, with a stultified air.
"I mentioned Thursday," said Henchard; "and as you did not keep your
appointment, I have engaged another manager. At first I thought he must
be you. Do you think I can wait when business is in question?"
"You said Thursday or Saturday, sir," said the newcomer, pulling out a
"Well, you are too late," said the corn-factor. "I can say no more."
"You as good as engaged me," murmured the man.
"Subject to an interview," said Henchard. "I am sorry for you--very
sorry indeed. But it can't be helped."
There was no more to be said, and the man came out, encountering
Elizabeth-Jane in his passage. She could see that his mouth twitched
with anger, and that bitter disappointment was written in his face
Elizabeth-Jane now entered, and stood before the master of the premises.
His dark pupils--which always seemed to have a red spark of light in
them, though this could hardly be a physical fact--turned indifferently
round under his dark brows until they rested on her figure. "Now then,
what is it, my young woman?" he said blandly.
"Can I speak to you--not on business, sir?" said she.
"Yes--I suppose." He looked at her more thoughtfully.
"I am sent to tell you, sir," she innocently went on, "that a distant
relative of yours by marriage, Susan Newson, a sailor's widow, is in the
town, and to ask whether you would wish to see her."
The rich rouge-et-noir of his countenance underwent a slight change.
"Oh--Susan is--still alive?" he asked with difficulty.
"Are you her daughter?"
"Yes, sir--her only daughter."
"What--do you call yourself--your Christian name?"
This at once suggested to Henchard that the transaction of his early
married life at Weydon Fair was unrecorded in the family history. It was
more than he could have expected. His wife had behaved kindly to him
in return for his unkindness, and had never proclaimed her wrong to her
child or to the world.
"I am--a good deal interested in your news," he said. "And as this is
not a matter of business, but pleasure, suppose we go indoors."
It was with a gentle delicacy of manner, surprising to Elizabeth, that
he showed her out of the office and through the outer room, where Donald
Farfrae was overhauling bins and samples with the inquiring inspection
of a beginner in charge. Henchard preceded her through the door in the
wall to the suddenly changed scene of the garden and flowers, and
onward into the house. The dining-room to which he introduced her still
exhibited the remnants of the lavish breakfast laid for Farfrae. It
was furnished to profusion with heavy mahogany furniture of the deepest
red-Spanish hues. Pembroke tables, with leaves hanging so low that they
well-nigh touched the floor, stood against the walls on legs and feet
shaped like those of an elephant, and on one lay three huge folio
volumes--a Family Bible, a "Josephus," and a "Whole Duty of Man." In the
chimney corner was a fire-grate with a fluted semicircular back, having
urns and festoons cast in relief thereon, and the chairs were of
the kind which, since that day, has cast lustre upon the names of
Chippendale and Sheraton, though, in point of fact, their patterns may
have been such as those illustrious carpenters never saw or heard of.
"Sit down--Elizabeth-Jane--sit down," he said, with a shake in his voice
as he uttered her name, and sitting down himself he allowed his hands
to hang between his knees while he looked upon the carpet. "Your mother,
then, is quite well?"
"She is rather worn out, sir, with travelling."
"A sailor's widow--when did he die?"
"Father was lost last spring."
Henchard winced at the word "father," thus applied. "Do you and she come
from abroad--America or Australia?" he asked.
"No. We have been in England some years. I was twelve when we came here
"Ah; exactly." By such conversation he discovered the circumstances
which had enveloped his wife and her child in such total obscurity that
he had long ago believed them to be in their graves. These things being
clear, he returned to the present. "And where is your mother staying?"
"At the Three Mariners."
"And you are her daughter Elizabeth-Jane?" repeated Henchard. He arose,
came close to her, and glanced in her face. "I think," he said, suddenly
turning away with a wet eye, "you shall take a note from me to your
mother. I should like to see her....She is not left very well off by
her late husband?" His eye fell on Elizabeth's clothes, which, though
a respectable suit of black, and her very best, were decidedly
old-fashioned even to Casterbridge eyes.
"Not very well," she said, glad that he had divined this without her
being obliged to express it.
He sat down at the table and wrote a few lines, next taking from his
pocket-book a five-pound note, which he put in the envelope with the
letter, adding to it, as by an afterthought, five shillings. Sealing the
whole up carefully, he directed it to "Mrs. Newson, Three Mariners Inn,"
and handed the packet to Elizabeth.
"Deliver it to her personally, please," said Henchard. "Well, I am glad
to see you here, Elizabeth-Jane--very glad. We must have a long talk
together--but not just now."
He took her hand at parting, and held it so warmly that she, who had
known so little friendship, was much affected, and tears rose to her
aerial-grey eyes. The instant that she was gone Henchard's state showed
itself more distinctly; having shut the door he sat in his dining-room
stiffly erect, gazing at the opposite wall as if he read his history
"Begad!" he suddenly exclaimed, jumping up. "I didn't think of that.
Perhaps these are impostors--and Susan and the child dead after all!"
However, a something in Elizabeth-Jane soon assured him that, as
regarded her, at least, there could be little doubt. And a few hours
would settle the question of her mother's identity; for he had arranged
in his note to see her that evening.
"It never rains but it pours!" said Henchard. His keenly excited
interest in his new friend the Scotchman was now eclipsed by this event,
and Donald Farfrae saw so little of him during the rest of the day that
he wondered at the suddenness of his employer's moods.
In the meantime Elizabeth had reached the inn. Her mother, instead of
taking the note with the curiosity of a poor woman expecting assistance,
was much moved at sight of it. She did not read it at once, asking
Elizabeth to describe her reception, and the very words Mr. Henchard
used. Elizabeth's back was turned when her mother opened the letter. It
"Meet me at eight o'clock this evening, if you can, at the Ring on the
Budmouth road. The place is easy to find. I can say no more now. The
news upsets me almost. The girl seems to be in ignorance. Keep her so
till I have seen you. M. H."
He said nothing about the enclosure of five guineas. The amount was
significant; it may tacitly have said to her that he bought her
back again. She waited restlessly for the close of the day, telling
Elizabeth-Jane that she was invited to see Mr. Henchard; that she would
go alone. But she said nothing to show that the place of meeting was not
at his house, nor did she hand the note to Elizabeth.
The Ring at Casterbridge was merely the local name of one of the finest
Roman Amphitheatres, if not the very finest, remaining in Britain.
Casterbridge announced old Rome in every street, alley, and precinct.
It looked Roman, bespoke the art of Rome, concealed dead men of Rome. It
was impossible to dig more than a foot or two deep about the town
fields and gardens without coming upon some tall soldier or other of the
Empire, who had lain there in his silent unobtrusive rest for a space of
fifteen hundred years. He was mostly found lying on his side, in an oval
scoop in the chalk, like a chicken in its shell; his knees drawn up to
his chest; sometimes with the remains of his spear against his arm,
a fibula or brooch of bronze on his breast or forehead, an urn at
his knees, a jar at his throat, a bottle at his mouth; and mystified
conjecture pouring down upon him from the eyes of Casterbridge street
boys and men, who had turned a moment to gaze at the familiar spectacle
as they passed by.
Imaginative inhabitants, who would have felt an unpleasantness at the
discovery of a comparatively modern skeleton in their gardens, were
quite unmoved by these hoary shapes. They had lived so long ago, their
time was so unlike the present, their hopes and motives were so widely
removed from ours, that between them and the living there seemed to
stretch a gulf too wide for even a spirit to pass.
The Amphitheatre was a huge circular enclosure, with a notch at opposite
extremities of its diameter north and south. From its sloping internal
form it might have been called the spittoon of the Jotuns. It was to
Casterbridge what the ruined Coliseum is to modern Rome, and was nearly
of the same magnitude. The dusk of evening was the proper hour at which
a true impression of this suggestive place could be received. Standing
in the middle of the arena at that time there by degrees became apparent
its real vastness, which a cursory view from the summit at noon-day
was apt to obscure. Melancholy, impressive, lonely, yet accessible from
every part of the town, the historic circle was the frequent spot for
appointments of a furtive kind. Intrigues were arranged there; tentative
meetings were there experimented after divisions and feuds. But one kind
of appointment--in itself the most common of any--seldom had place in
the Amphitheatre: that of happy lovers.
Why, seeing that it was pre-eminently an airy, accessible, and
sequestered spot for interviews, the cheerfullest form of those
occurrences never took kindly to the soil of the ruin, would be a
curious inquiry. Perhaps it was because its associations had about them
something sinister. Its history proved that. Apart from the sanguinary
nature of the games originally played therein, such incidents attached
to its past as these: that for scores of years the town-gallows had
stood at one corner; that in 1705 a woman who had murdered her husband
was half-strangled and then burnt there in the presence of ten thousand
spectators. Tradition reports that at a certain stage of the burning her
heart burst and leapt out of her body, to the terror of them all, and
that not one of those ten thousand people ever cared particularly for
hot roast after that. In addition to these old tragedies, pugilistic
encounters almost to the death had come off down to recent dates in that
secluded arena, entirely invisible to the outside world save by climbing
to the top of the enclosure, which few towns-people in the daily round
of their lives ever took the trouble to do. So that, though close to the
turnpike-road, crimes might be perpetrated there unseen at mid-day.
Some boys had latterly tried to impart gaiety to the ruin by using the
central arena as a cricket-ground. But the game usually languished
for the aforesaid reason--the dismal privacy which the earthen circle
enforced, shutting out every appreciative passer's vision, every
commendatory remark from outsiders--everything, except the sky; and to
play at games in such circumstances was like acting to an empty house.
Possibly, too, the boys were timid, for some old people said that at
certain moments in the summer time, in broad daylight, persons sitting
with a book or dozing in the arena had, on lifting their eyes, beheld
the slopes lined with a gazing legion of Hadrian's soldiery as if
watching the gladiatorial combat; and had heard the roar of their
excited voices, that the scene would remain but a moment, like a
lightning flash, and then disappear.
It was related that there still remained under the south entrance
excavated cells for the reception of the wild animals and athletes who
took part in the games. The arena was still smooth and circular, as if
used for its original purpose not so very long ago. The sloping pathways
by which spectators had ascended to their seats were pathways yet. But
the whole was grown over with grass, which now, at the end of summer,
was bearded with withered bents that formed waves under the brush of the
wind, returning to the attentive ear aeolian modulations, and detaining
for moments the flying globes of thistledown.
Henchard had chosen this spot as being the safest from observation which
he could think of for meeting his long-lost wife, and at the same time
as one easily to be found by a stranger after nightfall. As Mayor of the
town, with a reputation to keep up, he could not invite her to come to
his house till some definite course had been decided on.
Just before eight he approached the deserted earth-work and entered by
the south path which descended over the debris of the former dens. In
a few moments he could discern a female figure creeping in by the great
north gap, or public gateway. They met in the middle of the arena.
Neither spoke just at first--there was no necessity for speech--and the
poor woman leant against Henchard, who supported her in his arms.
"I don't drink," he said in a low, halting, apologetic voice. "You hear,
Susan?--I don't drink now--I haven't since that night." Those were his
He felt her bow her head in acknowledgment that she understood. After a
minute or two he again began:
"If I had known you were living, Susan! But there was every reason to
suppose you and the child were dead and gone. I took every possible step
to find you--travelled--advertised. My opinion at last was that you
had started for some colony with that man, and had been drowned on your
voyage. Why did you keep silent like this?"
"O Michael! because of him--what other reason could there be? I thought
I owed him faithfulness to the end of one of our lives--foolishly
I believed there was something solemn and binding in the bargain; I
thought that even in honour I dared not desert him when he had paid so
much for me in good faith. I meet you now only as his widow--I consider
myself that, and that I have no claim upon you. Had he not died I should
never have come--never! Of that you may be sure."
"Ts-s-s! How could you be so simple?"
"I don't know. Yet it would have been very wicked--if I had not thought
like that!" said Susan, almost crying.
"Yes--yes--so it would. It is only that which makes me feel 'ee an
innocent woman. But--to lead me into this!"
"What, Michael?" she asked, alarmed.
"Why, this difficulty about our living together again, and
Elizabeth-Jane. She cannot be told all--she would so despise us both
that--I could not bear it!"
"That was why she was brought up in ignorance of you. I could not bear
"Well--we must talk of a plan for keeping her in her present belief, and
getting matters straight in spite of it. You have heard I am in a large
way of business here--that I am Mayor of the town, and churchwarden, and
I don't know what all?"
"Yes," she murmured.
"These things, as well as the dread of the girl discovering our
disgrace, makes it necessary to act with extreme caution. So that I
don't see how you two can return openly to my house as the wife and
daughter I once treated badly, and banished from me; and there's the rub
"We'll go away at once. I only came to see--"
"No, no, Susan; you are not to go--you mistake me!" he said with kindly
severity. "I have thought of this plan: that you and Elizabeth take a
cottage in the town as the widow Mrs. Newson and her daughter; that I
meet you, court you, and marry you. Elizabeth-Jane coming to my house as
my step-daughter. The thing is so natural and easy that it is half done
in thinking o't. This would leave my shady, headstrong, disgraceful life
as a young man absolutely unopened; the secret would be yours and mine
only; and I should have the pleasure of seeing my own only child under
my roof, as well as my wife."
"I am quite in your hands, Michael," she said meekly. "I came here
for the sake of Elizabeth; for myself, if you tell me to leave again
to-morrow morning, and never come near you more, I am content to go."
"Now, now; we don't want to hear that," said Henchard gently. "Of course
you won't leave again. Think over the plan I have proposed for a few
hours; and if you can't hit upon a better one we'll adopt it. I have
to be away for a day or two on business, unfortunately; but during that
time you can get lodgings--the only ones in the town fit for you are
those over the china-shop in High Street--and you can also look for a
"If the lodgings are in High Street they are dear, I suppose?"
"Never mind--you MUST start genteel if our plan is to be carried out.
Look to me for money. Have you enough till I come back?"
"Quite," said she.
"And are you comfortable at the inn?"
"And the girl is quite safe from learning the shame of her case and
ours?--that's what makes me most anxious of all."
"You would be surprised to find how unlikely she is to dream of the
truth. How could she ever suppose such a thing?"
"I like the idea of repeating our marriage," said Mrs. Henchard, after
a pause. "It seems the only right course, after all this. Now I think
I must go back to Elizabeth-Jane, and tell her that our kinsman, Mr.
Henchard, kindly wishes us to stay in the town."
"Very well--arrange that yourself. I'll go some way with you."
"No, no. Don't run any risk!" said his wife anxiously. "I can find my
way back--it is not late. Please let me go alone."
"Right," said Henchard. "But just one word. Do you forgive me, Susan?"
She murmured something; but seemed to find it difficult to frame her
"Never mind--all in good time," said he. "Judge me by my future
He retreated, and stood at the upper side of the Amphitheatre while his
wife passed out through the lower way, and descended under the trees to
the town. Then Henchard himself went homeward, going so fast that by the
time he reached his door he was almost upon the heels of the unconscious
woman from whom he had just parted. He watched her up the street, and
turned into his house.
On entering his own door after watching his wife out of sight, the Mayor
walked on through the tunnel-shaped passage into the garden, and thence
by the back door towards the stores and granaries. A light shone from
the office-window, and there being no blind to screen the interior
Henchard could see Donald Farfrae still seated where he had left him,
initiating himself into the managerial work of the house by overhauling
the books. Henchard entered, merely observing, "Don't let me interrupt
you, if ye will stay so late."
He stood behind Farfrae's chair, watching his dexterity in clearing up
the numerical fogs which had been allowed to grow so thick in Henchard's
books as almost to baffle even the Scotchman's perspicacity. The
corn-factor's mien was half admiring, and yet it was not without a dash
of pity for the tastes of any one who could care to give his mind to
such finnikin details. Henchard himself was mentally and physically
unfit for grubbing subtleties from soiled paper; he had in a modern
sense received the education of Achilles, and found penmanship a
"You shall do no more to-night," he said at length, spreading his great
hand over the paper. "There's time enough to-morrow. Come indoors with
me and have some supper. Now you shall! I am determined on't." He shut
the account-books with friendly force.
Donald had wished to get to his lodgings; but he already saw that his
friend and employer was a man who knew no moderation in his requests and
impulses, and he yielded gracefully. He liked Henchard's warmth, even if
it inconvenienced him; the great difference in their characters adding
to the liking.
They locked up the office, and the young man followed his companion
through the private little door which, admitting directly into
Henchard's garden, permitted a passage from the utilitarian to the
beautiful at one step. The garden was silent, dewy, and full of
perfume. It extended a long way back from the house, first as lawn and
flower-beds, then as fruit-garden, where the long-tied espaliers, as old
as the old house itself, had grown so stout, and cramped, and gnarled
that they had pulled their stakes out of the ground and stood distorted
and writhing in vegetable agony, like leafy Laocoons. The flowers which
smelt so sweetly were not discernible; and they passed through them into
The hospitalities of the morning were repeated, and when they were over
Henchard said, "Pull your chair round to the fireplace, my dear fellow,
and let's make a blaze--there's nothing I hate like a black grate, even
in September." He applied a light to the laid-in fuel, and a cheerful
radiance spread around.
"It is odd," said Henchard, "that two men should meet as we have done on
a purely business ground, and that at the end of the first day I should
wish to speak to 'ee on a family matter. But, damn it all, I am a lonely
man, Farfrae: I have nobody else to speak to; and why shouldn't I tell
it to 'ee?"
"I'll be glad to hear it, if I can be of any service," said Donald,
allowing his eyes to travel over the intricate wood-carvings of the
chimney-piece, representing garlanded lyres, shields, and quivers, on
either side of a draped ox-skull, and flanked by heads of Apollo and
Diana in low relief.
"I've not been always what I am now," continued Henchard, his firm deep
voice being ever so little shaken. He was plainly under that strange
influence which sometimes prompts men to confide to the new-found
friend what they will not tell to the old. "I began life as a working
hay-trusser, and when I was eighteen I married on the strength o' my
calling. Would you think me a married man?"
"I heard in the town that you were a widower."
"Ah, yes--you would naturally have heard that. Well, I lost my wife
nineteen years ago or so--by my own fault....This is how it came about.
One summer evening I was travelling for employment, and she was walking
at my side, carrying the baby, our only child. We came to a booth in a
country fair. I was a drinking man at that time."
Henchard paused a moment, threw himself back so that his elbow rested
on the table, his forehead being shaded by his hand, which, however, did
not hide the marks of introspective inflexibility on his features as
he narrated in fullest detail the incidents of the transaction with the
sailor. The tinge of indifference which had at first been visible in the
Scotchman now disappeared.
Henchard went on to describe his attempts to find his wife; the oath he
swore; the solitary life he led during the years which followed. "I have
kept my oath for nineteen years," he went on; "I have risen to what you
see me now."
"Well--no wife could I hear of in all that time; and being by nature
something of a woman-hater, I have found it no hardship to keep mostly
at a distance from the sex. No wife could I hear of, I say, till this
very day. And now--she has come back."
"Come back, has she!"
"This morning--this very morning. And what's to be done?"
"Can ye no' take her and live with her, and make some amends?"
"That's what I've planned and proposed. But, Farfrae," said Henchard
gloomily, "by doing right with Susan I wrong another innocent woman."
"Ye don't say that?"
"In the nature of things, Farfrae, it is almost impossible that a man
of my sort should have the good fortune to tide through twenty years o'
life without making more blunders than one. It has been my custom
for many years to run across to Jersey in the the way of business,
particularly in the potato and root season. I do a large trade wi' them
in that line. Well, one autumn when stopping there I fell quite ill, and
in my illness I sank into one of those gloomy fits I sometimes suffer
from, on account o' the loneliness of my domestic life, when the world
seems to have the blackness of hell, and, like Job, I could curse the
day that gave me birth."
"Ah, now, I never feel like it," said Farfrae.
"Then pray to God that you never may, young man. While in this state I
was taken pity on by a woman--a young lady I should call her, for she
was of good family, well bred, and well educated--the daughter of some
harum-scarum military officer who had got into difficulties, and had his
pay sequestrated. He was dead now, and her mother too, and she was as
lonely as I. This young creature was staying at the boarding-house where
I happened to have my lodging; and when I was pulled down she took upon
herself to nurse me. From that she got to have a foolish liking for me.
Heaven knows why, for I wasn't worth it. But being together in the same
house, and her feeling warm, we got naturally intimate. I won't go into
particulars of what our relations were. It is enough to say that we
honestly meant to marry. There arose a scandal, which did me no harm,
but was of course ruin to her. Though, Farfrae, between you and me, as
man and man, I solemnly declare that philandering with womankind
has neither been my vice nor my virtue. She was terribly careless of
appearances, and I was perhaps more, because o' my dreary state; and it
was through this that the scandal arose. At last I was well, and came
away. When I was gone she suffered much on my account, and didn't forget
to tell me so in letters one after another; till latterly, I felt I
owed her something, and thought that, as I had not heard of Susan for so
long, I would make this other one the only return I could make, and ask
her if she would run the risk of Susan being alive (very slight as I
believed) and marry me, such as I was. She jumped for joy, and we should
no doubt soon have been married--but, behold, Susan appears!"
Donald showed his deep concern at a complication so far beyond the
degree of his simple experiences.
"Now see what injury a man may cause around him! Even after that
wrong-doing at the fair when I was young, if I had never been so selfish
as to let this giddy girl devote herself to me over at Jersey, to the
injury of her name, all might now be well. Yet, as it stands, I must
bitterly disappoint one of these women; and it is the second. My first
duty is to Susan--there's no doubt about that."
"They are both in a very melancholy position, and that's true!" murmured
"They are! For myself I don't care--'twill all end one way. But these
two." Henchard paused in reverie. "I feel I should like to treat the
second, no less than the first, as kindly as a man can in such a case."
"Ah, well, it cannet be helped!" said the other, with philosophic
woefulness. "You mun write to the young lady, and in your letter you
must put it plain and honest that it turns out she cannet be your wife,
the first having come back; that ye cannet see her more; and that--ye
wish her weel."
"That won't do. 'Od seize it, I must do a little more than that! I
must--though she did always brag about her rich uncle or rich aunt, and
her expectations from 'em--I must send a useful sum of money to her, I
suppose--just as a little recompense, poor girl....Now, will you help me
in this, and draw up an explanation to her of all I've told ye, breaking
it as gently as you can? I'm so bad at letters."
"And I will."
"Now, I haven't told you quite all yet. My wife Susan has my daughter
with her--the baby that was in her arms at the fair; and this girl knows
nothing of me beyond that I am some sort of relation by marriage. She
has grown up in the belief that the sailor to whom I made over her
mother, and who is now dead, was her father, and her mother's husband.
What her mother has always felt, she and I together feel now--that we
can't proclaim our disgrace to the girl by letting her know the truth.
Now what would you do?--I want your advice."
"I think I'd run the risk, and tell her the truth. She'll forgive ye
"Never!" said Henchard. "I am not going to let her know the truth. Her
mother and I be going to marry again; and it will not only help us to
keep our child's respect, but it will be more proper. Susan looks upon
herself as the sailor's widow, and won't think o' living with me as
formerly without another religious ceremony--and she's right."
Farfrae thereupon said no more. The letter to the young Jersey woman was
carefully framed by him, and the interview ended, Henchard saying, as
the Scotchman left, "I feel it a great relief, Farfrae, to tell some
friend o' this! You see now that the Mayor of Casterbridge is not so
thriving in his mind as it seems he might be from the state of his
"I do. And I'm sorry for ye!" said Farfrae.
When he was gone Henchard copied the letter, and, enclosing a cheque,
took it to the post-office, from which he walked back thoughtfully.
"Can it be that it will go off so easily!" he said. "Poor thing--God
knows! Now then, to make amends to Susan!"
The cottage which Michael Henchard hired for his wife Susan under her
name of Newson--in pursuance of their plan--was in the upper or western
part of the town, near the Roman wall, and the avenue which overshadowed
it. The evening sun seemed to shine more yellowly there than anywhere
else this autumn--stretching its rays, as the hours grew later, under
the lowest sycamore boughs, and steeping the ground-floor of the
dwelling, with its green shutters, in a substratum of radiance which the
foliage screened from the upper parts. Beneath these sycamores on the
town walls could be seen from the sitting-room the tumuli and earth
forts of the distant uplands; making it altogether a pleasant spot, with
the usual touch of melancholy that a past-marked prospect lends.
As soon as the mother and daughter were comfortably installed, with a
white-aproned servant and all complete, Henchard paid them a visit,
and remained to tea. During the entertainment Elizabeth was carefully
hoodwinked by the very general tone of the conversation that
prevailed--a proceeding which seemed to afford some humour to Henchard,
though his wife was not particularly happy in it. The visit was repeated
again and again with business-like determination by the Mayor, who
seemed to have schooled himself into a course of strict mechanical
rightness towards this woman of prior claim, at any expense to the later
one and to his own sentiments.
One afternoon the daughter was not indoors when Henchard came, and he
said drily, "This is a very good opportunity for me to ask you to name
the happy day, Susan."
The poor woman smiled faintly; she did not enjoy pleasantries on a
situation into which she had entered solely for the sake of her girl's
reputation. She liked them so little, indeed, that there was room for
wonder why she had countenanced deception at all, and had not bravely
let the girl know her history. But the flesh is weak; and the true
explanation came in due course.
"O Michael!" she said, "I am afraid all this is taking up your time and
giving trouble--when I did not expect any such thing!" And she looked at
him and at his dress as a man of affluence, and at the furniture he had
provided for the room--ornate and lavish to her eyes.
"Not at all," said Henchard, in rough benignity. "This is only a
cottage--it costs me next to nothing. And as to taking up my time"--here
his red and black visage kindled with satisfaction--"I've a splendid
fellow to superintend my business now--a man whose like I've never been
able to lay hands on before. I shall soon be able to leave everything
to him, and have more time to call my own than I've had for these last
Henchard's visits here grew so frequent and so regular that it soon
became whispered, and then openly discussed in Casterbridge that the
masterful, coercive Mayor of the town was raptured and enervated by the
genteel widow Mrs. Newson. His well-known haughty indifference to the
society of womankind, his silent avoidance of converse with the sex,
contributed a piquancy to what would otherwise have been an unromantic
matter enough. That such a poor fragile woman should be his choice was
inexplicable, except on the ground that the engagement was a family
affair in which sentimental passion had no place; for it was known that
they were related in some way. Mrs. Henchard was so pale that the boys
called her "The Ghost." Sometimes Henchard overheard this epithet when
they passed together along the Walks--as the avenues on the walls
were named--at which his face would darken with an expression of
destructiveness towards the speakers ominous to see; but he said
He pressed on the preparations for his union, or rather reunion, with
this pale creature in a dogged, unflinching spirit which did credit
to his conscientiousness. Nobody would have conceived from his outward
demeanour that there was no amatory fire or pulse of romance acting as
stimulant to the bustle going on in his gaunt, great house; nothing
but three large resolves--one, to make amends to his neglected Susan,
another, to provide a comfortable home for Elizabeth-Jane under his
paternal eye; and a third, to castigate himself with the thorns which
these restitutory acts brought in their train; among them the lowering
of his dignity in public opinion by marrying so comparatively humble a
Susan Henchard entered a carriage for the first time in her life when
she stepped into the plain brougham which drew up at the door on the
wedding-day to take her and Elizabeth-Jane to church. It was a windless
morning of warm November rain, which floated down like meal, and lay
in a powdery form on the nap of hats and coats. Few people had
gathered round the church door though they were well packed within.
The Scotchman, who assisted as groomsman, was of course the only one
present, beyond the chief actors, who knew the true situation of the
contracting parties. He, however, was too inexperienced, too thoughtful,
too judicial, too strongly conscious of the serious side of the
business, to enter into the scene in its dramatic aspect. That required
the special genius of Christopher Coney, Solomon Longways, Buzzford, and
their fellows. But they knew nothing of the secret; though, as the
time for coming out of church drew on, they gathered on the pavement
adjoining, and expounded the subject according to their lights.
"'Tis five-and-forty years since I had my settlement in this here town,"
said Coney; "but daze me if I ever see a man wait so long before to take
so little! There's a chance even for thee after this, Nance Mockridge."
The remark was addressed to a woman who stood behind his shoulder--the
same who had exhibited Henchard's bad bread in public when Elizabeth and
her mother entered Casterbridge.
"Be cust if I'd marry any such as he, or thee either," replied that
lady. "As for thee, Christopher, we know what ye be, and the less said
the better. And as for he--well, there--(lowering her voice) 'tis said
'a was a poor parish 'prentice--I wouldn't say it for all the world--but
'a was a poor parish 'prentice, that began life wi' no more belonging to
'en than a carrion crow."
"And now he's worth ever so much a minute," murmured Longways. "When a
man is said to be worth so much a minute, he's a man to be considered!"
Turning, he saw a circular disc reticulated with creases, and recognized
the smiling countenance of the fat woman who had asked for another song
at the Three Mariners. "Well, Mother Cuxsom," he said, "how's this?
Here's Mrs. Newson, a mere skellinton, has got another husband to keep
her, while a woman of your tonnage have not."
"I have not. Nor another to beat me....Ah, yes, Cuxsom's gone, and so
shall leather breeches!"
"Yes; with the blessing of God leather breeches shall go."
"'Tisn't worth my old while to think of another husband," continued Mrs.
Cuxsom. "And yet I'll lay my life I'm as respectable born as she."
"True; your mother was a very good woman--I can mind her. She were
rewarded by the Agricultural Society for having begot the greatest
number of healthy children without parish assistance, and other virtuous
"'Twas that that kept us so low upon ground--that great hungry family."
"Ay. Where the pigs be many the wash runs thin."
"And dostn't mind how mother would sing, Christopher?" continued Mrs.
Cuxsom, kindling at the retrospection; "and how we went with her to the
party at Mellstock, do ye mind?--at old Dame Ledlow's, farmer Shinar's
aunt, do ye mind?--she we used to call Toad-skin, because her face were
so yaller and freckled, do ye mind?"
"I do, hee-hee, I do!" said Christopher Coney.
"And well do I--for I was getting up husband-high at that time--one-half
girl, and t'other half woman, as one may say. And canst mind"--she
prodded Solomon's shoulder with her finger-tip, while her eyes twinkled
between the crevices of their lids--"canst mind the sherry-wine, and the
zilver-snuffers, and how Joan Dummett was took bad when we were coming
home, and Jack Griggs was forced to carry her through the mud; and how
'a let her fall in Dairyman Sweet-apple's cow-barton, and we had to
clane her gown wi' grass--never such a mess as a' were in?"
"Ay--that I do--hee-hee, such doggery as there was in them ancient days,
to be sure! Ah, the miles I used to walk then; and now I can hardly step
over a furrow!"
Their reminiscences were cut short by the appearance of the reunited
pair--Henchard looking round upon the idlers with that ambiguous gaze
of his, which at one moment seemed to mean satisfaction, and at another
"Well--there's a difference between 'em, though he do call himself a
teetotaller," said Nance Mockridge. "She'll wish her cake dough afore
she's done of him. There's a blue-beardy look about 'en; and 'twill out
"Stuff--he's well enough! Some folk want their luck buttered. If I had a
choice as wide as the ocean sea I wouldn't wish for a better man. A poor
twanking woman like her--'tis a godsend for her, and hardly a pair of
jumps or night-rail to her name."
The plain little brougham drove off in the mist, and the idlers
dispersed. "Well, we hardly know how to look at things in these times!"
said Solomon. "There was a man dropped down dead yesterday, not so very
many miles from here; and what wi' that, and this moist weather, 'tis
scarce worth one's while to begin any work o' consequence to-day. I'm in
such a low key with drinking nothing but small table ninepenny this
last week or two that I shall call and warm up at the Mar'ners as I pass
"I don't know but that I may as well go with 'ee, Solomon," said
Christopher; "I'm as clammy as a cockle-snail."
A Martinmas summer of Mrs. Henchard's life set in with her entry into
her husband's large house and respectable social orbit; and it was as
bright as such summers well can be. Lest she should pine for deeper
affection than he could give he made a point of showing some semblance
of it in external action. Among other things he had the iron railings,
that had smiled sadly in dull rust for the last eighty years, painted
a bright green, and the heavy-barred, small-paned Georgian sash windows
enlivened with three coats of white. He was as kind to her as a man,
mayor, and churchwarden could possibly be. The house was large, the
rooms lofty, and the landings wide; and the two unassuming women
scarcely made a perceptible addition to its contents.
To Elizabeth-Jane the time was a most triumphant one. The freedom she
experienced, the indulgence with which she was treated, went beyond her
expectations. The reposeful, easy, affluent life to which her mother's
marriage had introduced her was, in truth, the beginning of a great
change in Elizabeth. She found she could have nice personal possessions
and ornaments for the asking, and, as the mediaeval saying puts it,
"Take, have, and keep, are pleasant words." With peace of mind came
development, and with development beauty. Knowledge--the result of great
natural insight--she did not lack; learning, accomplishment--those,
alas, she had not; but as the winter and spring passed by her thin
face and figure filled out in rounder and softer curves; the lines and
contractions upon her young brow went away; the muddiness of skin which
she had looked upon as her lot by nature departed with a change to
abundance of good things, and a bloom came upon her cheek. Perhaps, too,
her grey, thoughtful eyes revealed an arch gaiety sometimes; but this
was infrequent; the sort of wisdom which looked from their pupils did
not readily keep company with these lighter moods. Like all people who
have known rough times, light-heartedness seemed to her too irrational
and inconsequent to be indulged in except as a reckless dram now and
then; for she had been too early habituated to anxious reasoning to drop
the habit suddenly. She felt none of those ups and downs of spirit
which beset so many people without cause; never--to paraphrase a recent
poet--never a gloom in Elizabeth-Jane's soul but she well knew how it
came there; and her present cheerfulness was fairly proportionate to her
solid guarantees for the same.
It might have been supposed that, given a girl rapidly becoming
good-looking, comfortably circumstanced, and for the first time in her
life commanding ready money, she would go and make a fool of herself by
dress. But no. The reasonableness of almost everything that Elizabeth
did was nowhere more conspicuous than in this question of clothes. To
keep in the rear of opportunity in matters of indulgence is as valuable
a habit as to keep abreast of opportunity in matters of enterprise. This
unsophisticated girl did it by an innate perceptiveness that was almost
genius. Thus she refrained from bursting out like a water-flower that
spring, and clothing herself in puffings and knick-knacks, as most of
the Casterbridge girls would have done in her circumstances. Her triumph
was tempered by circumspection, she had still that field-mouse fear of
the coulter of destiny despite fair promise, which is common among the
thoughtful who have suffered early from poverty and oppression.
"I won't be too gay on any account," she would say to herself. "It would
be tempting Providence to hurl mother and me down, and afflict us again
as He used to do."
We now see her in a black silk bonnet, velvet mantle or silk spencer,
dark dress, and carrying a sunshade. In this latter article she drew
the line at fringe, and had it plain edged, with a little ivory ring for
keeping it closed. It was odd about the necessity for that sunshade. She
discovered that with the clarification of her complexion and the birth
of pink cheeks her skin had grown more sensitive to the sun's rays.
She protected those cheeks forthwith, deeming spotlessness part of
Henchard had become very fond of her, and she went out with him more
frequently than with her mother now. Her appearance one day was so
attractive that he looked at her critically.
"I happened to have the ribbon by me, so I made it up," she faltered,
thinking him perhaps dissatisfied with some rather bright trimming she
had donned for the first time.
"Ay--of course--to be sure," he replied in his leonine way. "Do as you
like--or rather as your mother advises ye. 'Od send--I've nothing to say
Indoors she appeared with her hair divided by a parting that arched like
a white rainbow from ear to ear. All in front of this line was covered
with a thick encampment of curls; all behind was dressed smoothly, and
drawn to a knob.
The three members of the family were sitting at breakfast one day, and
Henchard was looking silently, as he often did, at this head of
hair, which in colour was brown--rather light than dark. "I thought
Elizabeth-Jane's hair--didn't you tell me that Elizabeth-Jane's hair
promised to be black when she was a baby?" he said to his wife.
She looked startled, jerked his foot warningly, and murmured, "Did I?"
As soon as Elizabeth was gone to her own room Henchard resumed. "Begad,
I nearly forgot myself just now! What I meant was that the girl's hair
certainly looked as if it would be darker, when she was a baby."
"It did; but they alter so," replied Susan.
"Their hair gets darker, I know--but I wasn't aware it lightened ever?"
"O yes." And the same uneasy expression came out on her face, to which
the future held the key. It passed as Henchard went on:
"Well, so much the better. Now Susan, I want to have her called
Miss Henchard--not Miss Newson. Lots o' people do it already in
carelessness--it is her legal name--so it may as well be made her usual
name--I don't like t'other name at all for my own flesh and blood. I'll
advertise it in the Casterbridge paper--that's the way they do it. She
"No. O no. But--"
"Well, then, I shall do it," he said, peremptorily. "Surely, if she's
willing, you must wish it as much as I?"
"O yes--if she agrees let us do it by all means," she replied.
Then Mrs. Henchard acted somewhat inconsistently; it might have been
called falsely, but that her manner was emotional and full of the
earnestness of one who wishes to do right at great hazard. She went to
Elizabeth-Jane, whom she found sewing in her own sitting-room upstairs,
and told her what had been proposed about her surname. "Can you
agree--is it not a slight upon Newson--now he's dead and gone?"
Elizabeth reflected. "I'll think of it, mother," she answered.
When, later in the day, she saw Henchard, she adverted to the matter
at once, in a way which showed that the line of feeling started by her
mother had been persevered in. "Do you wish this change so very much,
sir?" she asked.
"Wish it? Why, my blessed fathers, what an ado you women make about
a trifle! I proposed it--that's all. Now, 'Lizabeth-Jane, just please
yourself. Curse me if I care what you do. Now, you understand, don't 'ee
go agreeing to it to please me."
Here the subject dropped, and nothing more was said, and nothing was
done, and Elizabeth still passed as Miss Newson, and not by her legal
Meanwhile the great corn and hay traffic conducted by Henchard throve
under the management of Donald Farfrae as it had never thriven before.
It had formerly moved in jolts; now it went on oiled casters. The old
crude viva voce system of Henchard, in which everything depended upon
his memory, and bargains were made by the tongue alone, was swept
away. Letters and ledgers took the place of "I'll do't," and "you shall
hae't"; and, as in all such cases of advance, the rugged picturesqueness
of the old method disappeared with its inconveniences.
The position of Elizabeth-Jane's room--rather high in the house, so
that it commanded a view of the hay-stores and granaries across the
garden--afforded her opportunity for accurate observation of what went
on there. She saw that Donald and Mr. Henchard were inseparables. When
walking together Henchard would lay his arm familiarly on his manager's
shoulder, as if Farfrae were a younger brother, bearing so heavily that
his slight frame bent under the weight. Occasionally she would hear
a perfect cannonade of laughter from Henchard, arising from something
Donald had said, the latter looking quite innocent and not laughing at
all. In Henchard's somewhat lonely life he evidently found the young
man as desirable for comradeship as he was useful for consultations.
Donald's brightness of intellect maintained in the corn-factor the
admiration it had won at the first hour of their meeting. The poor
opinion, and but ill-concealed, that he entertained of the
slim Farfrae's physical girth, strength, and dash was more than
counterbalanced by the immense respect he had for his brains.
Her quiet eye discerned that Henchard's tigerish affection for the
younger man, his constant liking to have Farfrae near him, now and then
resulted in a tendency to domineer, which, however, was checked in a
moment when Donald exhibited marks of real offence. One day, looking
down on their figures from on high, she heard the latter remark, as they
stood in the doorway between the garden and yard, that their habit of
walking and driving about together rather neutralized Farfrae's value
as a second pair of eyes, which should be used in places where the
principal was not. "'Od damn it," cried Henchard, "what's all the world!
I like a fellow to talk to. Now come along and hae some supper, and
don't take too much thought about things, or ye'll drive me crazy."
When she walked with her mother, on the other hand, she often beheld the
Scotchman looking at them with a curious interest. The fact that he had
met her at the Three Mariners was insufficient to account for it, since
on the occasions on which she had entered his room he had never raised
his eyes. Besides, it was at her mother more particularly than
at herself that he looked, to Elizabeth-Jane's half-conscious,
simple-minded, perhaps pardonable, disappointment. Thus she could not
account for this interest by her own attractiveness, and she decided
that it might be apparent only--a way of turning his eyes that Mr.
She did not divine the ample explanation of his manner, without personal
vanity, that was afforded by the fact of Donald being the depositary
of Henchard's confidence in respect of his past treatment of the pale,
chastened mother who walked by her side. Her conjectures on that past
never went further than faint ones based on things casually heard and
seen--mere guesses that Henchard and her mother might have been lovers
in their younger days, who had quarrelled and parted.
Casterbridge, as has been hinted, was a place deposited in the
block upon a corn-field. There was no suburb in the modern sense, or
transitional intermixture of town and down. It stood, with regard to the
wide fertile land adjoining, clean-cut and distinct, like a chess-board
on a green tablecloth. The farmer's boy could sit under his barley-mow
and pitch a stone into the office-window of the town-clerk; reapers
at work among the sheaves nodded to acquaintances standing on the
pavement-corner; the red-robed judge, when he condemned a sheep-stealer,
pronounced sentence to the tune of Baa, that floated in at the window
from the remainder of the flock browsing hard by; and at executions
the waiting crowd stood in a meadow immediately before the drop, out of
which the cows had been temporarily driven to give the spectators room.
The corn grown on the upland side of the borough was garnered by farmers
who lived in an eastern purlieu called Durnover. Here wheat-ricks
overhung the old Roman street, and thrust their eaves against the church
tower; green-thatched barns, with doorways as high as the gates of
Solomon's temple, opened directly upon the main thoroughfare. Barns
indeed were so numerous as to alternate with every half-dozen houses
along the way. Here lived burgesses who daily walked the fallow;
shepherds in an intra-mural squeeze. A street of farmers' homesteads--a
street ruled by a mayor and corporation, yet echoing with the thump of
the flail, the flutter of the winnowing-fan, and the purr of the milk
into the pails--a street which had nothing urban in it whatever--this
was the Durnover end of Casterbridge.
Henchard, as was natural, dealt largely with this nursery or bed of
small farmers close at hand--and his waggons were often down that way.
One day, when arrangements were in progress for getting home corn from
one of the aforesaid farms, Elizabeth-Jane received a note by hand,
asking her to oblige the writer by coming at once to a granary on
Durnover Hill. As this was the granary whose contents Henchard was
removing, she thought the request had something to do with his business,
and proceeded thither as soon as she had put on her bonnet. The granary
was just within the farm-yard, and stood on stone staddles, high enough
for persons to walk under. The gates were open, but nobody was within.
However, she entered and waited. Presently she saw a figure approaching
the gate--that of Donald Farfrae. He looked up at the church clock, and
came in. By some unaccountable shyness, some wish not to meet him there
alone, she quickly ascended the step-ladder leading to the granary
door, and entered it before he had seen her. Farfrae advanced, imagining
himself in solitude, and a few drops of rain beginning to fall he moved
and stood under the shelter where she had just been standing. Here he
leant against one of the staddles, and gave himself up to patience. He,
too, was plainly expecting some one; could it be herself? If so, why?
In a few minutes he looked at his watch, and then pulled out a note, a
duplicate of the one she had herself received.
This situation began to be very awkward, and the longer she waited the
more awkward it became. To emerge from a door just above his head and
descend the ladder, and show she had been in hiding there, would look so
very foolish that she still waited on. A winnowing machine stood close
beside her, and to relieve her suspense she gently moved the handle;
whereupon a cloud of wheat husks flew out into her face, and covered
her clothes and bonnet, and stuck into the fur of her victorine. He must
have heard the slight movement for he looked up, and then ascended the
"Ah--it's Miss Newson," he said as soon as he could see into the
granary. "I didn't know you were there. I have kept the appointment, and
am at your service."
"O Mr. Farfrae," she faltered, "so have I. But I didn't know it was you
who wished to see me, otherwise I--"
"I wished to see you? O no--at least, that is, I am afraid there may be
"Didn't you ask me to come here? Didn't you write this?" Elizabeth held
out her note.
"No. Indeed, at no hand would I have thought of it! And for you--didn't
you ask me? This is not your writing?" And he held up his.
"By no means."
"And is that really so! Then it's somebody wanting to see us both.
Perhaps we would do well to wait a little longer."
Acting on this consideration they lingered, Elizabeth-Jane's face being
arranged to an expression of preternatural composure, and the young
Scot, at every footstep in the street without, looking from under the
granary to see if the passer were about to enter and declare himself
their summoner. They watched individual drops of rain creeping down the
thatch of the opposite rick--straw after straw--till they reached the
bottom; but nobody came, and the granary roof began to drip.
"The person is not likely to be coming," said Farfrae. "It's a trick
perhaps, and if so, it's a great pity to waste our time like this, and
so much to be done."
"'Tis a great liberty," said Elizabeth.
"It's true, Miss Newson. We'll hear news of this some day depend on't,
and who it was that did it. I wouldn't stand for it hindering myself;
but you, Miss Newson----"
"I don't mind--much,' she replied.
"Neither do I."
They lapsed again into silence. "You are anxious to get back to
Scotland, I suppose, Mr. Farfrae?" she inquired.
"O no, Miss Newson. Why would I be?"
"I only supposed you might be from the song you sang at the Three
Mariners--about Scotland and home, I mean--which you seemed to feel so
deep down in your heart; so that we all felt for you."
"Ay--and I did sing there--I did----But, Miss Newson"--and Donald's
voice musically undulated between two semi-tones as it always did when
he became earnest--"it's well you feel a song for a few minutes, and
your eyes they get quite tearful; but you finish it, and for all you
felt you don't mind it or think of it again for a long while. O no,
I don't want to go back! Yet I'll sing the song to you wi' pleasure
whenever you like. I could sing it now, and not mind at all?"
"Thank you, indeed. But I fear I must go--rain or no."
"Ay! Then, Miss Newson, ye had better say nothing about this hoax, and
take no heed of it. And if the person should say anything to you, be
civil to him or her, as if you did not mind it--so you'll take the
clever person's laugh away." In speaking his eyes became fixed upon
her dress, still sown with wheat husks. "There's husks and dust on you.
Perhaps you don't know it?" he said, in tones of extreme delicacy. "And
it's very bad to let rain come upon clothes when there's chaff on them.
It washes in and spoils them. Let me help you--blowing is the best."
As Elizabeth neither assented nor dissented Donald Farfrae began blowing
her back hair, and her side hair, and her neck, and the crown of her
bonnet, and the fur of her victorine, Elizabeth saying, "O, thank you,"
at every puff. At last she was fairly clean, though Farfrae, having got
over his first concern at the situation, seemed in no manner of hurry to
"Ah--now I'll go and get ye an umbrella," he said.
She declined the offer, stepped out and was gone. Farfrae walked slowly
after, looking thoughtfully at her diminishing figure, and whistling in
undertones, "As I came down through Cannobie."
At first Miss Newson's budding beauty was not regarded with much
interest by anybody in Casterbridge. Donald Farfrae's gaze, it is true,
was now attracted by the Mayor's so-called step-daughter, but he was
only one. The truth is that she was but a poor illustrative instance of
the prophet Baruch's sly definition: "The virgin that loveth to go gay."
When she walked abroad she seemed to be occupied with an inner chamber
of ideas, and to have slight need for visible objects. She formed
curious resolves on checking gay fancies in the matter of clothes,
because it was inconsistent with her past life to blossom gaudily the
moment she had become possessed of money. But nothing is more insidious
than the evolution of wishes from mere fancies, and of wants from mere
wishes. Henchard gave Elizabeth-Jane a box of delicately-tinted gloves
one spring day. She wanted to wear them to show her appreciation of his
kindness, but she had no bonnet that would harmonize. As an artistic
indulgence she thought she would have such a bonnet. When she had a
bonnet that would go with the gloves she had no dress that would go with
the bonnet. It was now absolutely necessary to finish; she ordered the
requisite article, and found that she had no sunshade to go with the
dress. In for a penny in for a pound; she bought the sunshade, and the
whole structure was at last complete.
Everybody was attracted, and some said that her bygone simplicity was
the art that conceals art, the "delicate imposition" of Rochefoucauld;
she had produced an effect, a contrast, and it had been done on purpose.
As a matter of fact this was not true, but it had its result; for as
soon as Casterbridge thought her artful it thought her worth notice. "It
is the first time in my life that I have been so much admired," she said
to herself; "though perhaps it is by those whose admiration is not worth
But Donald Farfrae admired her, too; and altogether the time was an
exciting one; sex had never before asserted itself in her so strongly,
for in former days she had perhaps been too impersonally human to be
distinctively feminine. After an unprecedented success one day she came
indoors, went upstairs, and leant upon her bed face downwards quite
forgetting the possible creasing and damage. "Good Heaven," she
whispered, "can it be? Here am I setting up as the town beauty!"
When she had thought it over, her usual fear of exaggerating appearances
engendered a deep sadness. "There is something wrong in all this," she
mused. "If they only knew what an unfinished girl I am--that I can't
talk Italian, or use globes, or show any of the accomplishments they
learn at boarding schools, how they would despise me! Better sell all
this finery and buy myself grammar-books and dictionaries and a history
of all the philosophies!"
She looked from the window and saw Henchard and Farfrae in the hay-yard
talking, with that impetuous cordiality on the Mayor's part, and genial
modesty on the younger man's, that was now so generally observable
in their intercourse. Friendship between man and man; what a rugged
strength there was in it, as evinced by these two. And yet the seed that
was to lift the foundation of this friendship was at that moment taking
root in a chink of its structure.
It was about six o'clock; the men were dropping off homeward one by one.
The last to leave was a round-shouldered, blinking young man of nineteen
or twenty, whose mouth fell ajar on the slightest provocation, seemingly
because there was no chin to support it. Henchard called aloud to him as
he went out of the gate, "Here--Abel Whittle!"
Whittle turned, and ran back a few steps. "Yes, sir," he said, in
breathless deprecation, as if he knew what was coming next.
"Once more--be in time to-morrow morning. You see what's to be done, and
you hear what I say, and you know I'm not going to be trifled with any
"Yes, sir." Then Abel Whittle left, and Henchard and Farfrae; and
Elizabeth saw no more of them.
Now there was good reason for this command on Henchard's part. Poor
Abel, as he was called, had an inveterate habit of over-sleeping himself
and coming late to his work. His anxious will was to be among the
earliest; but if his comrades omitted to pull the string that he always
tied round his great toe and left hanging out the window for that
purpose, his will was as wind. He did not arrive in time.
As he was often second hand at the hay-weighing, or at the crane which
lifted the sacks, or was one of those who had to accompany the waggons
into the country to fetch away stacks that had been purchased, this
affliction of Abel's was productive of much inconvenience. For two
mornings in the present week he had kept the others waiting nearly an
hour; hence Henchard's threat. It now remained to be seen what would
Six o'clock struck, and there was no Whittle. At half-past six Henchard
entered the yard; the waggon was horsed that Abel was to accompany; and
the other man had been waiting twenty minutes. Then Henchard swore, and
Whittle coming up breathless at that instant, the corn-factor turned on
him, and declared with an oath that this was the last time; that if he
were behind once more, by God, he would come and drag him out o' bed.
"There is sommit wrong in my make, your worshipful!" said Abel,
"especially in the inside, whereas my poor dumb brain gets as dead as
a clot afore I've said my few scrags of prayers. Yes--it came on as a
stripling, just afore I'd got man's wages, whereas I never enjoy my bed
at all, for no sooner do I lie down than I be asleep, and afore I be
awake I be up. I've fretted my gizzard green about it, maister, but what
can I do? Now last night, afore I went to bed, I only had a scantling o'
"I don't want to hear it!" roared Henchard. "To-morrow the waggons must
start at four, and if you're not here, stand clear. I'll mortify thy
flesh for thee!"
"But let me clear up my points, your worshipful----"
Henchard turned away.
"He asked me and he questioned me, and then 'a wouldn't hear my
points!" said Abel, to the yard in general. "Now, I shall twitch like a
moment-hand all night to-night for fear o' him!"
The journey to be taken by the waggons next day was a long one into
Blackmoor Vale, and at four o'clock lanterns were moving about the yard.
But Abel was missing. Before either of the other men could run to Abel's
and warn him Henchard appeared in the garden doorway. "Where's Abel
Whittle? Not come after all I've said? Now I'll carry out my word, by
my blessed fathers--nothing else will do him any good! I'm going up that
Henchard went off, entered Abel's house, a little cottage in Back
Street, the door of which was never locked because the inmates had
nothing to lose. Reaching Whittle's bedside the corn-factor shouted a
bass note so vigorously that Abel started up instantly, and beholding
Henchard standing over him, was galvanized into spasmodic movements
which had not much relation to getting on his clothes.
"Out of bed, sir, and off to the granary, or you leave my employ to-day!
'Tis to teach ye a lesson. March on; never mind your breeches!"
The unhappy Whittle threw on his sleeve waistcoat, and managed to get
into his boots at the bottom of the stairs, while Henchard thrust his
hat over his head. Whittle then trotted on down Back Street, Henchard
walking sternly behind.
Just at this time Farfrae, who had been to Henchard's house to look for
him, came out of the back gate, and saw something white fluttering in
the morning gloom, which he soon perceived to be part of Abel's shirt
that showed below his waistcoat.
"For maircy's sake, what object's this?" said Farfrae, following Abel
into the yard, Henchard being some way in the rear by this time.
"Ye see, Mr. Farfrae," gibbered Abel with a resigned smile of terror,
"he said he'd mortify my flesh if so be I didn't get up sooner, and now
he's a-doing on't! Ye see it can't be helped, Mr. Farfrae; things do
happen queer sometimes! Yes--I'll go to Blackmoor Vale half naked as
I be, since he do command; but I shall kill myself afterwards; I can't
outlive the disgrace, for the women-folk will be looking out of their
winders at my mortification all the way along, and laughing me to scorn
as a man 'ithout breeches! You know how I feel such things, Maister
Farfrae, and how forlorn thoughts get hold upon me. Yes--I shall do
myself harm--I feel it coming on!"
"Get back home, and slip on your breeches, and come to wark like a man!
If ye go not, you'll ha'e your death standing there!"
"I'm afeard I mustn't! Mr. Henchard said----"
"I don't care what Mr. Henchard said, nor anybody else! 'Tis simple
foolishness to do this. Go and dress yourself instantly Whittle."
"Hullo, hullo!" said Henchard, coming up behind. "Who's sending him
All the men looked towards Farfrae.
"I am," said Donald. "I say this joke has been carried far enough."
"And I say it hasn't! Get up in the waggon, Whittle."
"Not if I am manager," said Farfrae. "He either goes home, or I march
out of this yard for good."
Henchard looked at him with a face stern and red. But he paused for
a moment, and their eyes met. Donald went up to him, for he saw in
Henchard's look that he began to regret this.
"Come," said Donald quietly, "a man o' your position should ken better,
sir! It is tyrannical and no worthy of you."
"'Tis not tyrannical!" murmured Henchard, like a sullen boy. "It is to
make him remember!" He presently added, in a tone of one bitterly hurt:
"Why did you speak to me before them like that, Farfrae? You might have
stopped till we were alone. Ah--I know why! I've told ye the secret o'
my life--fool that I was to do't--and you take advantage of me!"
"I had forgot it," said Farfrae simply.
Henchard looked on the ground, said nothing more, and turned away.
During the day Farfrae learnt from the men that Henchard had kept Abel's
old mother in coals and snuff all the previous winter, which made him
less antagonistic to the corn-factor. But Henchard continued moody and
silent, and when one of the men inquired of him if some oats should be
hoisted to an upper floor or not, he said shortly, "Ask Mr. Farfrae.
He's master here!"
Morally he was; there could be no doubt of it. Henchard, who had
hitherto been the most admired man in his circle, was the most admired
no longer. One day the daughters of a deceased farmer in Durnover wanted
an opinion of the value of their haystack, and sent a messenger to ask
Mr. Farfrae to oblige them with one. The messenger, who was a child, met
in the yard not Farfrae, but Henchard.
"Very well," he said. "I'll come."
"But please will Mr. Farfrae come?" said the child.
"I am going that way....Why Mr. Farfrae?" said Henchard, with the fixed
look of thought. "Why do people always want Mr. Farfrae?"
"I suppose because they like him so--that's what they say."
"Oh--I see--that's what they say--hey? They like him because he's
cleverer than Mr. Henchard, and because he knows more; and, in short,
Mr. Henchard can't hold a candle to him--hey?"
"Yes--that's just it, sir--some of it."
"Oh, there's more? Of course there's more! What besides? Come, here's a
sixpence for a fairing."
"'And he's better tempered, and Henchard's a fool to him,' they say.
And when some of the women were a-walking home they said, 'He's a
diment--he's a chap o' wax--he's the best--he's the horse for my money,'
says they. And they said, 'He's the most understanding man o' them two
by long chalks. I wish he was the master instead of Henchard,' they
"They'll talk any nonsense," Henchard replied with covered gloom. "Well,
you can go now. And I am coming to value the hay, d'ye hear?--I." The
boy departed, and Henchard murmured, "Wish he were master here, do
He went towards Durnover. On his way he overtook Farfrae. They walked on
together, Henchard looking mostly on the ground.
"You're no yoursel' the day?" Donald inquired.
"Yes, I am very well," said Henchard.
"But ye are a bit down--surely ye are down? Why, there's nothing to be
angry about! 'Tis splendid stuff that we've got from Blackmoor Vale. By
the by, the people in Durnover want their hay valued."
"Yes. I am going there."
"I'll go with ye."
As Henchard did not reply Donald practised a piece of music sotto voce,
till, getting near the bereaved people's door, he stopped himself with--
"Ah, as their father is dead I won't go on with such as that. How could
"Do you care so very much about hurting folks' feelings?" observed
Henchard with a half sneer. "You do, I know--especially mine!"
"I am sorry if I have hurt yours, sir," replied Donald, standing still,
with a second expression of the same sentiment in the regretfulness of
his face. "Why should you say it--think it?"
The cloud lifted from Henchard's brow, and as Donald finished the
corn-merchant turned to him, regarding his breast rather than his face.
"I have been hearing things that vexed me," he said. "'Twas that made me
short in my manner--made me overlook what you really are. Now, I don't
want to go in here about this hay--Farfrae, you can do it better than I.
They sent for 'ee, too. I have to attend a meeting of the Town Council
at eleven, and 'tis drawing on for't."
They parted thus in renewed friendship, Donald forbearing to ask
Henchard for meanings that were not very plain to him. On Henchard's
part there was now again repose; and yet, whenever he thought of
Farfrae, it was with a dim dread; and he often regretted that he had
told the young man his whole heart, and confided to him the secrets of
On this account Henchard's manner towards Farfrae insensibly became
more reserved. He was courteous--too courteous--and Farfrae was quite
surprised at the good breeding which now for the first time
showed itself among the qualities of a man he had hitherto thought
undisciplined, if warm and sincere. The corn-factor seldom or never
again put his arm upon the young man's shoulder so as to nearly weigh
him down with the pressure of mechanized friendship. He left off coming
to Donald's lodgings and shouting into the passage. "Hoy, Farfrae,
boy, come and have some dinner with us! Don't sit here in solitary
confinement!" But in the daily routine of their business there was
Thus their lives rolled on till a day of public rejoicing was suggested
to the country at large in celebration of a national event that had
recently taken place.
For some time Casterbridge, by nature slow, made no response. Then one
day Donald Farfrae broached the subject to Henchard by asking if he
would have any objection to lend some rick-cloths to himself and a few
others, who contemplated getting up an entertainment of some sort on
the day named, and required a shelter for the same, to which they might
charge admission at the rate of so much a head.
"Have as many cloths as you like," Henchard replied.
When his manager had gone about the business Henchard was fired with
emulation. It certainly had been very remiss of him, as Mayor, he
thought, to call no meeting ere this, to discuss what should be done on
this holiday. But Farfrae had been so cursed quick in his movements as
to give oldfashioned people in authority no chance of the initiative.
However, it was not too late; and on second thoughts he determined
to take upon his own shoulders the responsibility of organizing some
amusements, if the other Councilmen would leave the matter in his hands.
To this they quite readily agreed, the majority being fine old crusted
characters who had a decided taste for living without worry.
So Henchard set about his preparations for a really brilliant
thing--such as should be worthy of the venerable town. As for Farfrae's
little affair, Henchard nearly forgot it; except once now and then when,
on it coming into his mind, he said to himself, "Charge admission at
so much a head--just like a Scotchman!--who is going to pay anything
a head?" The diversions which the Mayor intended to provide were to be
He had grown so dependent upon Donald that he could scarcely resist
calling him in to consult. But by sheer self-coercion he refrained. No,
he thought, Farfrae would be suggesting such improvements in his damned
luminous way that in spite of himself he, Henchard, would sink to the
position of second fiddle, and only scrape harmonies to his manager's
Everybody applauded the Mayor's proposed entertainment, especially when
it became known that he meant to pay for it all himself.
Close to the town was an elevated green spot surrounded by an ancient
square earthwork--earthworks square and not square, were as common as
blackberries hereabout--a spot whereon the Casterbridge people usually
held any kind of merry-making, meeting, or sheep-fair that required more
space than the streets would afford. On one side it sloped to the river
Froom, and from any point a view was obtained of the country round
for many miles. This pleasant upland was to be the scene of Henchard's
He advertised about the town, in long posters of a pink colour, that
games of all sorts would take place here; and set to work a little
battalion of men under his own eye. They erected greasy-poles for
climbing, with smoked hams and local cheeses at the top. They placed
hurdles in rows for jumping over; across the river they laid a slippery
pole, with a live pig of the neighbourhood tied at the other end, to
become the property of the man who could walk over and get it. There
were also provided wheelbarrows for racing, donkeys for the same, a
stage for boxing, wrestling, and drawing blood generally; sacks for
jumping in. Moreover, not forgetting his principles, Henchard provided a
mammoth tea, of which everybody who lived in the borough was invited to
partake without payment. The tables were laid parallel with the inner
slope of the rampart, and awnings were stretched overhead.
Passing to and fro the Mayor beheld the unattractive exterior of
Farfrae's erection in the West Walk, rick-cloths of different sizes
and colours being hung up to the arching trees without any regard to
appearance. He was easy in his mind now, for his own preparations far
The morning came. The sky, which had been remarkably clear down to
within a day or two, was overcast, and the weather threatening, the wind
having an unmistakable hint of water in it. Henchard wished he had not
been quite so sure about the continuance of a fair season. But it was
too late to modify or postpone, and the proceedings went on. At twelve
o'clock the rain began to fall, small and steady, commencing and
increasing so insensibly that it was difficult to state exactly when dry
weather ended or wet established itself. In an hour the slight moisture
resolved itself into a monotonous smiting of earth by heaven, in
torrents to which no end could be prognosticated.
A number of people had heroically gathered in the field but by three
o'clock Henchard discerned that his project was doomed to end in
failure. The hams at the top of the poles dripped watered smoke in the
form of a brown liquor, the pig shivered in the wind, the grain of the
deal tables showed through the sticking tablecloths, for the awning
allowed the rain to drift under at its will, and to enclose the sides
at this hour seemed a useless undertaking. The landscape over the
river disappeared; the wind played on the tent-cords in aeolian
improvisations, and at length rose to such a pitch that the whole
erection slanted to the ground those who had taken shelter within it
having to crawl out on their hands and knees.
But towards six the storm abated, and a drier breeze shook the moisture
from the grass bents. It seemed possible to carry out the programme
after all. The awning was set up again; the band was called out from its
shelter, and ordered to begin, and where the tables had stood a place
was cleared for dancing.
"But where are the folk?" said Henchard, after the lapse of
half-an-hour, during which time only two men and a woman had stood up to
dance. "The shops are all shut. Why don't they come?"
"They are at Farfrae's affair in the West Walk," answered a Councilman
who stood in the field with the Mayor.
"A few, I suppose. But where are the body o 'em?"
"All out of doors are there."
"Then the more fools they!"
Henchard walked away moodily. One or two young fellows gallantly came to
climb the poles, to save the hams from being wasted; but as there
were no spectators, and the whole scene presented the most melancholy
appearance Henchard gave orders that the proceedings were to be
suspended, and the entertainment closed, the food to be distributed
among the poor people of the town. In a short time nothing was left in
the field but a few hurdles, the tents, and the poles.
Henchard returned to his house, had tea with his wife and daughter, and
then walked out. It was now dusk. He soon saw that the tendency of all
promenaders was towards a particular spot in the Walks, and eventually
proceeded thither himself. The notes of a stringed band came from the
enclosure that Farfrae had erected--the pavilion as he called it--and
when the Mayor reached it he perceived that a gigantic tent had been
ingeniously constructed without poles or ropes. The densest point of the
avenue of sycamores had been selected, where the boughs made a closely
interlaced vault overhead; to these boughs the canvas had been hung, and
a barrel roof was the result. The end towards the wind was enclosed, the
other end was open. Henchard went round and saw the interior.
In form it was like the nave of a cathedral with one gable removed, but
the scene within was anything but devotional. A reel or fling of some
sort was in progress; and the usually sedate Farfrae was in the midst of
the other dancers in the costume of a wild Highlander, flinging himself
about and spinning to the tune. For a moment Henchard could not help
laughing. Then he perceived the immense admiration for the Scotchman
that revealed itself in the women's faces; and when this exhibition was
over, and a new dance proposed, and Donald had disappeared for a time to
return in his natural garments, he had an unlimited choice of partners,
every girl being in a coming-on disposition towards one who so
thoroughly understood the poetry of motion as he.
All the town crowded to the Walk, such a delightful idea of a ballroom
never having occurred to the inhabitants before. Among the rest of the
onlookers were Elizabeth and her mother--the former thoughtful yet
much interested, her eyes beaming with a longing lingering light, as
if Nature had been advised by Correggio in their creation. The dancing
progressed with unabated spirit, and Henchard walked and waited till
his wife should be disposed to go home. He did not care to keep in the
light, and when he went into the dark it was worse, for there he heard
remarks of a kind which were becoming too frequent:
"Mr. Henchard's rejoicings couldn't say good morning to this," said one.
"A man must be a headstrong stunpoll to think folk would go up to that
bleak place to-day."
The other answered that people said it was not only in such things as
those that the Mayor was wanting. "Where would his business be if
it were not for this young fellow? 'Twas verily Fortune sent him to
Henchard. His accounts were like a bramblewood when Mr. Farfrae came.
He used to reckon his sacks by chalk strokes all in a row like
garden-palings, measure his ricks by stretching with his arms, weigh his
trusses by a lift, judge his hay by a chaw, and settle the price with a
curse. But now this accomplished young man does it all by ciphering and
mensuration. Then the wheat--that sometimes used to taste so strong
o' mice when made into bread that people could fairly tell the
breed--Farfrae has a plan for purifying, so that nobody would dream the
smallest four-legged beast had walked over it once. O yes, everybody
is full of him, and the care Mr. Henchard has to keep him, to be sure!"
concluded this gentleman.
"But he won't do it for long, good-now," said the other.
"No!" said Henchard to himself behind the tree. "Or if he do, he'll be
honeycombed clean out of all the character and standing that he's built
up in these eighteen year!"
He went back to the dancing pavilion. Farfrae was footing a quaint
little dance with Elizabeth-Jane--an old country thing, the only one she
knew, and though he considerately toned down his movements to suit her
demurer gait, the pattern of the shining little nails in the soles of
his boots became familiar to the eyes of every bystander. The tune
had enticed her into it; being a tune of a busy, vaulting, leaping
sort--some low notes on the silver string of each fiddle, then a
skipping on the small, like running up and down ladders--"Miss M'Leod of
Ayr" was its name, so Mr. Farfrae had said, and that it was very popular
in his own country.
It was soon over, and the girl looked at Henchard for approval; but
he did not give it. He seemed not to see her. "Look here, Farfrae," he
said, like one whose mind was elsewhere, "I'll go to Port-Bredy Great
Market to-morrow myself. You can stay and put things right in your
clothes-box, and recover strength to your knees after your vagaries." He
planted on Donald an antagonistic glare that had begun as a smile.
Some other townsmen came up, and Donald drew aside. "What's this,
Henchard," said Alderman Tubber, applying his thumb to the corn-factor
like a cheese-taster. "An opposition randy to yours, eh? Jack's as good
as his master, eh? Cut ye out quite, hasn't he?"
"You see, Mr. Henchard," said the lawyer, another goodnatured friend,
"where you made the mistake was in going so far afield. You should have
taken a leaf out of his book, and have had your sports in a sheltered
place like this. But you didn't think of it, you see; and he did, and
that's where he's beat you."
"He'll be top-sawyer soon of you two, and carry all afore him," added
jocular Mr. Tubber.
"No," said Henchard gloomily. "He won't be that, because he's shortly
going to leave me." He looked towards Donald, who had come near. "Mr.
Farfrae's time as my manager is drawing to a close--isn't it, Farfrae?"
The young man, who could now read the lines and folds of Henchard's
strongly-traced face as if they were clear verbal inscriptions, quietly
assented; and when people deplored the fact, and asked why it was, he
simply replied that Mr. Henchard no longer required his help.
Henchard went home, apparently satisfied. But in the morning, when his
jealous temper had passed away, his heart sank within him at what he had
said and done. He was the more disturbed when he found that this time
Farfrae was determined to take him at his word.
Elizabeth-Jane had perceived from Henchard's manner that in assenting to
dance she had made a mistake of some kind. In her simplicity she did
not know what it was till a hint from a nodding acquaintance enlightened
her. As the Mayor's step-daughter, she learnt, she had not been quite in
her place in treading a measure amid such a mixed throng as filled the
Thereupon her ears, cheeks, and chin glowed like live coals at the
dawning of the idea that her tastes were not good enough for her
position, and would bring her into disgrace.
This made her very miserable, and she looked about for her mother;
but Mrs. Henchard, who had less idea of conventionality than Elizabeth
herself, had gone away, leaving her daughter to return at her own
pleasure. The latter moved on into the dark dense old avenues, or rather
vaults of living woodwork, which ran along the town boundary, and stood
A man followed in a few minutes, and her face being to-wards the shine
from the tent he recognized her. It was Farfrae--just come from the
dialogue with Henchard which had signified his dismissal.
"And it's you, Miss Newson?--and I've been looking for ye everywhere!"
he said, overcoming a sadness imparted by the estrangement with the
corn-merchant. "May I walk on with you as far as your street-corner?"
She thought there might be something wrong in this, but did not utter
any objection. So together they went on, first down the West Walk, and
then into the Bowling Walk, till Farfrae said, "It's like that I'm going
to leave you soon."
She faltered, "Why?"
"Oh--as a mere matter of business--nothing more. But we'll not concern
ourselves about it--it is for the best. I hoped to have another dance
She said she could not dance--in any proper way.
"Nay, but you do! It's the feeling for it rather than the learning of
steps that makes pleasant dancers....I fear I offended your father by
getting up this! And now, perhaps, I'll have to go to another part o'
the warrld altogether!"
This seemed such a melancholy prospect that Elizabeth-Jane breathed
a sigh--letting it off in fragments that he might not hear her.
But darkness makes people truthful, and the Scotchman went on
impulsively--perhaps he had heard her after all:
"I wish I was richer, Miss Newson; and your stepfather had not been
offended, I would ask you something in a short time--yes, I would ask
you to-night. But that's not for me!"
What he would have asked her he did not say, and instead of encouraging
him she remained incompetently silent. Thus afraid one of another they
continued their promenade along the walls till they got near the bottom
of the Bowling Walk; twenty steps further and the trees would end,
and the street-corner and lamps appear. In consciousness of this they
"I never found out who it was that sent us to Durnover granary on a
fool's errand that day," said Donald, in his undulating tones. "Did ye
ever know yourself, Miss Newson?"
"Never," said she.
"I wonder why they did it!"
"For fun, perhaps."
"Perhaps it was not for fun. It might have been that they thought they
would like us to stay waiting there, talking to one another? Ay, well! I
hope you Casterbridge folk will not forget me if I go."
"That I'm sure we won't!" she said earnestly. "I--wish you wouldn't go
They had got into the lamplight. "Now, I'll think over that," said
Donald Farfrae. "And I'll not come up to your door; but part from you
here; lest it make your father more angry still."
They parted, Farfrae returning into the dark Bowling Walk, and
Elizabeth-Jane going up the street. Without any consciousness of what
she was doing she started running with all her might till she reached
her father's door. "O dear me--what am I at?" she thought, as she pulled
Indoors she fell to conjecturing the meaning of Farfrae's enigmatic
words about not daring to ask her what he fain would. Elizabeth, that
silent observing woman, had long noted how he was rising in favour among
the townspeople; and knowing Henchard's nature now she had feared that
Farfrae's days as manager were numbered, so that the announcement gave
her little surprise. Would Mr. Farfrae stay in Casterbridge despite his
words and her father's dismissal? His occult breathings to her might be
solvable by his course in that respect.
The next day was windy--so windy that walking in the garden she picked
up a portion of the draft of a letter on business in Donald Farfrae's
writing, which had flown over the wall from the office. The useless
scrap she took indoors, and began to copy the calligraphy, which she
much admired. The letter began "Dear Sir," and presently writing on a
loose slip "Elizabeth-Jane," she laid the latter over "Sir," making the
phrase "Dear Elizabeth-Jane." When she saw the effect a quick red ran up
her face and warmed her through, though nobody was there to see what she
had done. She quickly tore up the slip, and threw it away. After this
she grew cool and laughed at herself, walked about the room, and laughed
again; not joyfully, but distressfully rather.
It was quickly known in Casterbridge that Farfrae and Henchard had
decided to dispense with each other. Elizabeth-Jane's anxiety to know
if Farfrae were going away from the town reached a pitch that disturbed
her, for she could no longer conceal from herself the cause. At length
the news reached her that he was not going to leave the place. A man
following the same trade as Henchard, but on a very small scale, had
sold his business to Farfrae, who was forthwith about to start as corn
and hay merchant on his own account.
Her heart fluttered when she heard of this step of Donald's, proving
that he meant to remain; and yet, would a man who cared one little bit
for her have endangered his suit by setting up a business in opposition
to Mr. Henchard's? Surely not; and it must have been a passing impulse
only which had led him to address her so softly.
To solve the problem whether her appearance on the evening of the dance
were such as to inspire a fleeting love at first sight, she dressed
herself up exactly as she had dressed then--the muslin, the spencer, the
sandals, the para-sol--and looked in the mirror The picture glassed back
was in her opinion, precisely of such a kind as to inspire that fleeting
regard, and no more--"just enough to make him silly, and not enough
to keep him so," she said luminously; and Elizabeth thought, in a much
lower key, that by this time he had discovered how plain and homely was
the informing spirit of that pretty outside.
Hence, when she felt her heart going out to him, she would say to
herself with a mock pleasantry that carried an ache with it, "No, no,
Elizabeth-Jane--such dreams are not for you!" She tried to prevent
herself from seeing him, and thinking of him; succeeding fairly well in
the former attempt, in the latter not so completely.
Henchard, who had been hurt at finding that Farfrae did not mean to
put up with his temper any longer, was incensed beyond measure when
he learnt what the young man had done as an alternative. It was in
the town-hall, after a council meeting, that he first became aware of
Farfrae's coup for establishing himself independently in the town; and
his voice might have been heard as far as the town-pump expressing his
feelings to his fellow councilmen. These tones showed that, though under
a long reign of self-control he had become Mayor and churchwarden and
what not, there was still the same unruly volcanic stuff beneath the
rind of Michael Henchard as when he had sold his wife at Weydon Fair.
"Well, he's a friend of mine, and I'm a friend of his--or if we are not,
what are we? 'Od send, if I've not been his friend, who has, I should
like to know? Didn't he come here without a sound shoe to his voot?
Didn't I keep him here--help him to a living? Didn't I help him to
money, or whatever he wanted? I stuck out for no terms--I said 'Name
your own price.' I'd have shared my last crust with that young fellow
at one time, I liked him so well. And now he's defied me! But damn him,
I'll have a tussle with him now--at fair buying and selling, mind--at
fair buying and selling! And if I can't overbid such a stripling as he,
then I'm not wo'th a varden! We'll show that we know our business as
well as one here and there!"
His friends of the Corporation did not specially respond. Henchard was
less popular now than he had been when nearly two years before, they
had voted him to the chief magistracy on account of his amazing
energy. While they had collectively profited by this quality of the
corn-factor's they had been made to wince individually on more than one
occasion. So he went out of the hall and down the street alone.
Reaching home he seemed to recollect something with a sour satisfaction.
He called Elizabeth-Jane. Seeing how he looked when she entered she
"Nothing to find fault with," he said, observing her concern. "Only I
want to caution you, my dear. That man, Farfrae--it is about him. I've
seen him talking to you two or three times--he danced with 'ee at the
rejoicings, and came home with 'ee. Now, now, no blame to you. But just
harken: Have you made him any foolish promise? Gone the least bit beyond
sniff and snaff at all?"
"No. I have promised him nothing."
"Good. All's well that ends well. I particularly wish you not to see him
"Very well, sir."
She hesitated for a moment, and then said--
"Yes, if you much wish it."
"I do. He's an enemy to our house!"
When she had gone he sat down, and wrote in a heavy hand to Farfrae
SIR,--I make request that henceforth you and my stepdaughter be as
strangers to each other. She on her part has promised to welcome no
more addresses from you; and I trust, therefore, you will not attempt to
force them upon her.
One would almost have supposed Henchard to have had policy to see
that no better modus vivendi could be arrived at with Farfrae than by
encouraging him to become his son-in-law. But such a scheme for buying
over a rival had nothing to recommend it to the Mayor's headstrong
faculties. With all domestic finesse of that kind he was hopelessly at
variance. Loving a man or hating him, his diplomacy was as wrongheaded
as a buffalo's; and his wife had not ventured to suggest the course
which she, for many reasons, would have welcomed gladly.
Meanwhile Donald Farfrae had opened the gates of commerce on his own
account at a spot on Durnover Hill--as far as possible from Henchard's
stores, and with every intention of keeping clear of his former friend
and employer's customers. There was, it seemed to the younger man, room
for both of them and to spare. The town was small, but the corn and
hay-trade was proportionately large, and with his native sagacity he saw
opportunity for a share of it.
So determined was he to do nothing which should seem like
trade-antagonism to the Mayor that he refused his first customer--a
large farmer of good repute--because Henchard and this man had dealt
together within the preceding three months.
"He was once my friend," said Farfrae, "and it's not for me to take
business from him. I am sorry to disappoint you, but I cannot hurt the
trade of a man who's been so kind to me."
In spite of this praiseworthy course the Scotchman's trade increased.
Whether it were that his northern energy was an overmastering force
among the easy-going Wessex worthies, or whether it was sheer luck, the
fact remained that whatever he touched he prospered in. Like Jacob
in Padan-Aram, he would no sooner humbly limit himself to
the ringstraked-and-spotted exceptions of trade than the
ringstraked-and-spotted would multiply and prevail.
But most probably luck had little to do with it. Character is Fate, said
Novalis, and Farfrae's character was just the reverse of Henchard's,
who might not inaptly be described as Faust has been described--as a
vehement gloomy being who had quitted the ways of vulgar men without
light to guide him on a better way.
Farfrae duly received the request to discontinue attentions to
Elizabeth-Jane. His acts of that kind had been so slight that the
request was almost superfluous. Yet he had felt a considerable interest
in her, and after some cogitation he decided that it would be as well
to enact no Romeo part just then--for the young girl's sake no less than
his own. Thus the incipient attachment was stifled down.
A time came when, avoid collision with his former friend as he might,
Farfrae was compelled, in sheer self-defence, to close with Henchard in
mortal commercial combat. He could no longer parry the fierce attacks
of the latter by simple avoidance. As soon as their war of prices began
everybody was interested, and some few guessed the end. It was, in some
degree, Northern insight matched against Southern doggedness--the dirk
against the cudgel--and Henchard's weapon was one which, if it did not
deal ruin at the first or second stroke, left him afterwards well-nigh
at his antagonist's mercy.
Almost every Saturday they encountered each other amid the crowd of
farmers which thronged about the market-place in the weekly course of
their business. Donald was always ready, and even anxious, to say a few
friendly words, but the Mayor invariably gazed stormfully past him,
like one who had endured and lost on his account, and could in no sense
forgive the wrong; nor did Farfrae's snubbed manner of perplexity at all
appease him. The large farmers, corn-merchants, millers, auctioneers,
and others had each an official stall in the corn-market room, with
their names painted thereon; and when to the familiar series of
"Henchard," "Everdene," "Shiner," "Darton," and so on, was added one
inscribed "Farfrae," in staring new letters, Henchard was stung into
bitterness; like Bellerophon, he wandered away from the crowd, cankered
From that day Donald Farfrae's name was seldom mentioned in Henchard's
house. If at breakfast or dinner Elizabeth-Jane's mother inadvertently
alluded to her favourite's movements, the girl would implore her by a
look to be silent; and her husband would say, "What--are you, too, my
There came a shock which had been foreseen for some time by Elizabeth,
as the box passenger foresees the approaching jerk from some channel
across the highway.
Her mother was ill--too unwell to leave her room. Henchard, who treated
her kindly, except in moments of irritation, sent at once for the
richest, busiest doctor, whom he supposed to be the best. Bedtime came,
and they burnt a light all night. In a day or two she rallied.
Elizabeth, who had been staying up, did not appear at breakfast on the
second morning, and Henchard sat down alone. He was startled to see
a letter for him from Jersey in a writing he knew too well, and had
expected least to behold again. He took it up in his hands and looked
at it as at a picture, a vision, a vista of past enactments; and then he
read it as an unimportant finale to conjecture.
The writer said that she at length perceived how impossible it would
be for any further communications to proceed between them now that
his re-marriage had taken place. That such reunion had been the only
straightforward course open to him she was bound to admit.
"On calm reflection, therefore," she went on, "I quite forgive you for
landing me in such a dilemma, remembering that you concealed nothing
before our ill-advised acquaintance; and that you really did set before
me in your grim way the fact of there being a certain risk in intimacy
with you, slight as it seemed to be after fifteen or sixteen years of
silence on your wife's part. I thus look upon the whole as a misfortune
of mine, and not a fault of yours.
"So that, Michael, I must ask you to overlook those letters with which I
pestered you day after day in the heat of my feelings. They were
written whilst I thought your conduct to me cruel; but now I know more
particulars of the position you were in I see how inconsiderate my
"Now you will, I am sure, perceive that the one condition which will
make any future happiness possible for me is that the past connection
between our lives be kept secret outside this isle. Speak of it I know
you will not; and I can trust you not to write of it. One safe-guard
more remains to be mentioned--that no writings of mine, or trifling
articles belonging to me, should be left in your possession through
neglect or forgetfulness. To this end may I request you to return to
me any such you may have, particularly the letters written in the first
abandonment of feeling.
"For the handsome sum you forwarded to me as a plaster to the wound I
heartily thank you.
"I am now on my way to Bristol, to see my only relative. She is rich,
and I hope will do something for me. I shall return through Casterbridge
and Budmouth, where I shall take the packet-boat. Can you meet me with
the letters and other trifles? I shall be in the coach which changes
horses at the Antelope Hotel at half-past five Wednesday evening; I
shall be wearing a Paisley shawl with a red centre, and thus may easily
be found. I should prefer this plan of receiving them to having them
sent.--I remain still, yours; ever,
Henchard breathed heavily. "Poor thing--better you had not known me!
Upon my heart and soul, if ever I should be left in a position to
carry out that marriage with thee, I OUGHT to do it--I ought to do it,
The contingency that he had in his mind was, of course, the death of
As requested, he sealed up Lucetta's letters, and put the parcel aside
till the day she had appointed; this plan of returning them by hand
being apparently a little ruse of the young lady for exchanging a word
or two with him on past times. He would have preferred not to see her;
but deeming that there could be no great harm in acquiescing thus far,
he went at dusk and stood opposite the coach-office.
The evening was chilly, and the coach was late. Henchard crossed over to
it while the horses were being changed; but there was no Lucetta
inside or out. Concluding that something had happened to modify her
arrangements he gave the matter up and went home, not without a sense of
relief. Meanwhile Mrs. Henchard was weakening visibly. She could not
go out of doors any more. One day, after much thinking which seemed to
distress her, she said she wanted to write something. A desk was put
upon her bed with pen and paper, and at her request she was left alone.
She remained writing for a short time, folded her paper carefully,
called Elizabeth-Jane to bring a taper and wax, and then, still refusing
assistance, sealed up the sheet, directed it, and locked it in her desk.
She had directed it in these words:--
"MR. MICHAEL HENCHARD. NOT TO BE OPENED TILL ELIZABETH-JANE'S
The latter sat up with her mother to the utmost of her strength night
after night. To learn to take the universe seriously there is no quicker
way than to watch--to be a "waker," as the country-people call it.
Between the hours at which the last toss-pot went by and the first
sparrow shook himself, the silence in Casterbridge--barring the rare
sound of the watchman--was broken in Elizabeth's ear only by the
time-piece in the bedroom ticking frantically against the clock on the
stairs; ticking harder and harder till it seemed to clang like a gong;
and all this while the subtle-souled girl asking herself why she was
born, why sitting in a room, and blinking at the candle; why things
around her had taken the shape they wore in preference to every other
possible shape. Why they stared at her so helplessly, as if waiting
for the touch of some wand that should release them from terrestrial
constraint; what that chaos called consciousness, which spun in her at
this moment like a top, tended to, and began in. Her eyes fell together;
she was awake, yet she was asleep.
A word from her mother roused her. Without preface, and as the
continuation of a scene already progressing in her mind, Mrs. Henchard
said: "You remember the note sent to you and Mr. Farfrae--asking you to
meet some one in Durnover Barton--and that you thought it was a trick to
make fools of you?"
"It was not to make fools of you--it was done to bring you together.
'Twas I did it."
"Why?" said Elizabeth, with a start.
"I--wanted you to marry Mr. Farfrae."
"O mother!" Elizabeth-Jane bent down her head so much that she looked
quite into her own lap. But as her mother did not go on, she said, "What
"Well, I had a reason. 'Twill out one day. I wish it could have been in
my time! But there--nothing is as you wish it! Henchard hates him."
"Perhaps they'll be friends again," murmured the girl.
"I don't know--I don't know." After this her mother was silent, and
dozed; and she spoke on the subject no more.
Some little time later on Farfrae was passing Henchard's house on a
Sunday morning, when he observed that the blinds were all down. He rang
the bell so softly that it only sounded a single full note and a
small one; and then he was informed that Mrs. Henchard was dead--just
dead--that very hour.
At the town-pump there were gathered when he passed a few old
inhabitants, who came there for water whenever they had, as at present,
spare time to fetch it, because it was purer from that original fount
than from their own wells. Mrs. Cuxsom, who had been standing there for
an indefinite time with her pitcher, was describing the incidents of
Mrs. Henchard's death, as she had learnt them from the nurse.
"And she was white as marble-stone," said Mrs. Cuxsom. "And likewise
such a thoughtful woman, too--ah, poor soul--that a' minded every little
thing that wanted tending. 'Yes,' says she, 'when I'm gone, and my last
breath's blowed, look in the top drawer o' the chest in the back room
by the window, and you'll find all my coffin clothes, a piece of
flannel--that's to put under me, and the little piece is to put under my
head; and my new stockings for my feet--they are folded alongside, and
all my other things. And there's four ounce pennies, the heaviest I
could find, a-tied up in bits of linen, for weights--two for my right
eye and two for my left,' she said. 'And when you've used 'em, and my
eyes don't open no more, bury the pennies, good souls and don't ye go
spending 'em, for I shouldn't like it. And open the windows as soon as I
am carried out, and make it as cheerful as you can for Elizabeth-Jane.'"
"Ah, poor heart!"
"Well, and Martha did it, and buried the ounce pennies in the garden.
But if ye'll believe words, that man, Christopher Coney, went and dug
'em up, and spent 'em at the Three Mariners. 'Faith,' he said, 'why
should death rob life o' fourpence? Death's not of such good report that
we should respect 'en to that extent,' says he."
"'Twas a cannibal deed!" deprecated her listeners.
"Gad, then I won't quite ha'e it," said Solomon Longways. "I say it
to-day, and 'tis a Sunday morning, and I wouldn't speak wrongfully for
a zilver zixpence at such a time. I don't see noo harm in it. To respect
the dead is sound doxology; and I wouldn't sell skellintons--leastwise
respectable skellintons--to be varnished for 'natomies, except I were
out o' work. But money is scarce, and throats get dry. Why SHOULD death
rob life o' fourpence? I say there was no treason in it."
"Well, poor soul; she's helpless to hinder that or anything now,"
answered Mother Cuxsom. "And all her shining keys will be took from her,
and her cupboards opened; and little things a' didn't wish seen, anybody
will see; and her wishes and ways will all be as nothing!"
Henchard and Elizabeth sat conversing by the fire. It was three weeks
after Mrs. Henchard's funeral, the candles were not lighted, and a
restless, acrobatic flame, poised on a coal, called from the shady walls
the smiles of all shapes that could respond--the old pier-glass, with
gilt columns and huge entablature, the picture-frames, sundry knobs and
handles, and the brass rosette at the bottom of each riband bell-pull on
either side of the chimney-piece.
"Elizabeth, do you think much of old times?" said Henchard.
"Yes, sir; often," she said.
"Who do you put in your pictures of 'em?"
"Mother and father--nobody else hardly."
Henchard always looked like one bent on resisting pain when
Elizabeth-Jane spoke of Richard Newson as "father." "Ah! I am out of all
that, am I not?" he said.... "Was Newson a kind father?"
"Yes, sir; very."
Henchard's face settled into an expression of stolid loneliness which
gradually modulated into something softer. "Suppose I had been your real
father?" he said. "Would you have cared for me as much as you cared for
"I can't think it," she said quickly. "I can think of no other as my
father, except my father."
Henchard's wife was dissevered from him by death; his friend and helper
Farfrae by estrangement; Elizabeth-Jane by ignorance. It seemed to him
that only one of them could possibly be recalled, and that was the girl.
His mind began vibrating between the wish to reveal himself to her and
the policy of leaving well alone, till he could no longer sit still. He
walked up and down, and then he came and stood behind her chair, looking
down upon the top of her head. He could no longer restrain his impulse.
"What did your mother tell you about me--my history?" he asked.
"That you were related by marriage."
"She should have told more--before you knew me! Then my task would not
have been such a hard one....Elizabeth, it is I who am your father, and
not Richard Newson. Shame alone prevented your wretched parents from
owning this to you while both of 'em were alive."
The back of Elizabeth's head remained still, and her shoulders did not
denote even the movements of breathing. Henchard went on: "I'd rather
have your scorn, your fear, anything than your ignorance; 'tis that I
hate! Your mother and I were man and wife when we were young. What you
saw was our second marriage. Your mother was too honest. We had thought
each other dead--and--Newson became her husband."
This was the nearest approach Henchard could make to the full truth. As
far as he personally was concerned he would have screened nothing;
but he showed a respect for the young girl's sex and years worthy of a
When he had gone on to give details which a whole series of slight and
unregarded incidents in her past life strangely corroborated; when, in
short, she believed his story to be true, she became greatly agitated,
and turning round to the table flung her face upon it weeping.
"Don't cry--don't cry!" said Henchard, with vehement pathos, "I can't
bear it, I won't bear it. I am your father; why should you cry? Am I so
dreadful, so hateful to 'ee? Don't take against me, Elizabeth-Jane!"
he cried, grasping her wet hand. "Don't take against me--though I was a
drinking man once, and used your mother roughly--I'll be kinder to you
than HE was! I'll do anything, if you will only look upon me as your
She tried to stand up and comfort him trustfully; but she could not; she
was troubled at his presence, like the brethren at the avowal of Joseph.
"I don't want you to come to me all of a sudden," said Henchard in
jerks, and moving like a great tree in a wind. "No, Elizabeth, I don't.
I'll go away and not see you till to-morrow, or when you like, and then
I'll show 'ee papers to prove my words. There, I am gone, and won't
disturb you any more....'Twas I that chose your name, my daughter; your
mother wanted it Susan. There, don't forget 'twas I gave you your name!"
He went out at the door and shut her softly in, and she heard him go
away into the garden. But he had not done. Before she had moved, or in
any way recovered from the effect of his disclosure, he reappeared.
"One word more, Elizabeth," he said. "You'll take my surname now--hey?
Your mother was against it, but it will be much more pleasant to me.
'Tis legally yours, you know. But nobody need know that. You shall take
it as if by choice. I'll talk to my lawyer--I don't know the law of it
exactly; but will you do this--let me put a few lines into the newspaper
that such is to be your name?"
"If it is my name I must have it, mustn't I?" she asked.
"Well, well; usage is everything in these matters."
"I wonder why mother didn't wish it?"
"Oh, some whim of the poor soul's. Now get a bit of paper and draw up a
paragraph as I shall tell you. But let's have a light."
"I can see by the firelight," she answered. "Yes--I'd rather."
She got a piece of paper, and bending over the fender wrote at
his dictation words which he had evidently got by heart from some
advertisement or other--words to the effect that she, the writer,
hitherto known as Elizabeth-Jane Newson, was going to call herself
Elizabeth-Jane Henchard forthwith. It was done, and fastened up, and
directed to the office of the Casterbridge Chronicle.
"Now," said Henchard, with the blaze of satisfaction that he always
emitted when he had carried his point--though tenderness softened it
this time--"I'll go upstairs and hunt for some documents that will
prove it all to you. But I won't trouble you with them till to-morrow.
Good-night, my Elizabeth-Jane!"
He was gone before the bewildered girl could realize what it all
meant, or adjust her filial sense to the new center of gravity. She was
thankful that he had left her to herself for the evening, and sat down
over the fire. Here she remained in silence, and wept--not for her
mother now, but for the genial sailor Richard Newson, to whom she seemed
doing a wrong.
Henchard in the meantime had gone upstairs. Papers of a domestic nature
he kept in a drawer in his bedroom, and this he unlocked. Before turning
them over he leant back and indulged in reposeful thought. Elizabeth was
his at last and she was a girl of such good sense and kind heart that
she would be sure to like him. He was the kind of man to whom some
human object for pouring out his heart upon--were it emotive or were
it choleric--was almost a necessity. The craving for his heart for the
re-establishment of this tenderest human tie had been great during
his wife's lifetime, and now he had submitted to its mastery without
reluctance and without fear. He bent over the drawer again, and
proceeded in his search.
Among the other papers had been placed the contents of his wife's little
desk, the keys of which had been handed to him at her request. Here was
the letter addressed to him with the restriction, "NOT TO BE OPENED TILL
Mrs. Henchard, though more patient than her husband, had been no
practical hand at anything. In sealing up the sheet, which was folded
and tucked in without an envelope, in the old-fashioned way, she had
overlaid the junction with a large mass of wax without the requisite
under-touch of the same. The seal had cracked, and the letter was open.
Henchard had no reason to suppose the restriction one of serious weight,
and his feeling for his late wife had not been of the nature of deep
respect. "Some trifling fancy or other of poor Susan's, I suppose," he
said; and without curiosity he allowed his eyes to scan the letter:--
MY DEAR MICHAEL,--For the good of all three of us I have kept one thing
a secret from you till now. I hope you will understand why; I think you
will; though perhaps you may not forgive me. But, dear Michael, I have
done it for the best. I shall be in my grave when you read this, and
Elizabeth-Jane will have a home. Don't curse me Mike--think of how I was
situated. I can hardly write it, but here it is. Elizabeth-Jane is not
your Elizabeth-Jane--the child who was in my arms when you sold me.
No; she died three months after that, and this living one is my other
husband's. I christened her by the same name we had given to the first,
and she filled up the ache I felt at the other's loss. Michael, I
am dying, and I might have held my tongue; but I could not. Tell her
husband of this or not, as you may judge; and forgive, if you can, a
woman you once deeply wronged, as she forgives you.
Her husband regarded the paper as if it were a window-pane through
which he saw for miles. His lips twitched, and he seemed to compress his
frame, as if to bear better. His usual habit was not to consider whether
destiny were hard upon him or not--the shape of his ideals in cases of
affliction being simply a moody "I am to suffer, I perceive." "This
much scourging, then, it is for me." But now through his passionate head
there stormed this thought--that the blasting disclosure was what he had
His wife's extreme reluctance to have the girl's name altered from
Newson to Henchard was now accounted for fully. It furnished another
illustration of that honesty in dishonesty which had characterized her
in other things.
He remained unnerved and purposeless for near a couple of hours; till he
suddenly said, "Ah--I wonder if it is true!"
He jumped up in an impulse, kicked off his slippers, and went with a
candle to the door of Elizabeth-Jane's room, where he put his ear to
the keyhole and listened. She was breathing profoundly. Henchard softly
turned the handle, entered, and shading the light, approached the
bedside. Gradually bringing the light from behind a screening curtain
he held it in such a manner that it fell slantwise on her face without
shining on her eyes. He steadfastly regarded her features.
They were fair: his were dark. But this was an unimportant preliminary.
In sleep there come to the surface buried genealogical facts, ancestral
curves, dead men's traits, which the mobility of daytime animation
screens and overwhelms. In the present statuesque repose of the young
girl's countenance Richard Newson's was unmistakably reflected. He could
not endure the sight of her, and hastened away.
Misery taught him nothing more than defiant endurance of it. His wife
was dead, and the first impulse for revenge died with the thought that
she was beyond him. He looked out at the night as at a fiend. Henchard,
like all his kind, was superstitious, and he could not help thinking
that the concatenation of events this evening had produced was the
scheme of some sinister intelligence bent on punishing him. Yet they
had developed naturally. If he had not revealed his past history to
Elizabeth he would not have searched the drawer for papers, and so on.
The mockery was, that he should have no sooner taught a girl to claim
the shelter of his paternity than he discovered her to have no kinship
This ironical sequence of things angered him like an impish trick from
a fellow-creature. Like Prester John's, his table had been spread, and
infernal harpies had snatched up the food. He went out of the house, and
moved sullenly onward down the pavement till he came to the bridge at
the bottom of the High Street. Here he turned in upon a bypath on the
river bank, skirting the north-eastern limits of the town.
These precincts embodied the mournful phases of Casterbridge life, as
the south avenues embodied its cheerful moods. The whole way along here
was sunless, even in summer time; in spring, white frosts lingered here
when other places were steaming with warmth; while in winter it was the
seed-field of all the aches, rheumatisms, and torturing cramps of
the year. The Casterbridge doctors must have pined away for want of
sufficient nourishment but for the configuration of the landscape on the
The river--slow, noiseless, and dark--the Schwarzwasser of
Casterbridge--ran beneath a low cliff, the two together forming a
defence which had rendered walls and artificial earthworks on this side
unnecessary. Here were ruins of a Franciscan priory, and a mill attached
to the same, the water of which roared down a back-hatch like the voice
of desolation. Above the cliff, and behind the river, rose a pile of
buildings, and in the front of the pile a square mass cut into the sky.
It was like a pedestal lacking its statue. This missing feature, without
which the design remained incomplete, was, in truth, the corpse of a
man, for the square mass formed the base of the gallows, the extensive
buildings at the back being the county gaol. In the meadow where
Henchard now walked the mob were wont to gather whenever an execution
took place, and there to the tune of the roaring weir they stood and
watched the spectacle.
The exaggeration which darkness imparted to the glooms of this region
impressed Henchard more than he had expected. The lugubrious harmony of
the spot with his domestic situation was too perfect for him, impatient
of effects scenes, and adumbrations. It reduced his heartburning to
melancholy, and he exclaimed, "Why the deuce did I come here!" He went
on past the cottage in which the old local hangman had lived and died,
in times before that calling was monopolized over all England by a
single gentleman; and climbed up by a steep back lane into the town.
For the sufferings of that night, engendered by his bitter
disappointment, he might well have been pitied. He was like one who had
half fainted, and could neither recover nor complete the swoon. In words
he could blame his wife, but not in his heart; and had he obeyed the
wise directions outside her letter this pain would have been spared him
for long--possibly for ever, Elizabeth-Jane seeming to show no ambition
to quit her safe and secluded maiden courses for the speculative path of
The morning came after this night of unrest, and with it the necessity
for a plan. He was far too self-willed to recede from a position,
especially as it would involve humiliation. His daughter he had asserted
her to be, and his daughter she should always think herself, no matter
what hyprocrisy it involved.
But he was ill-prepared for the first step in this new situation. The
moment he came into the breakfast-room Elizabeth advanced with open
confidence to him and took him by the arm.
"I have thought and thought all night of it," she said frankly. "And I
see that everything must be as you say. And I am going to look upon you
as the father that you are, and not to call you Mr. Henchard any more.
It is so plain to me now. Indeed, father, it is. For, of course, you
would not have done half the things you have done for me, and let me
have my own way so entirely, and bought me presents, if I had only been
your step-daughter! He--Mr. Newson--whom my poor mother married by such
a strange mistake" (Henchard was glad that he had disguised matters
here), "was very kind--O so kind!" (she spoke with tears in her eyes);
"but that is not the same thing as being one's real father after all.
Now, father, breakfast is ready!" she said cheerfully.
Henchard bent and kissed her cheek. The moment and the act he had
prefigured for weeks with a thrill of pleasure; yet it was no less than
a miserable insipidity to him now that it had come. His reinstation of
her mother had been chiefly for the girl's sake, and the fruition of the
whole scheme was such dust and ashes as this.
Of all the enigmas which ever confronted a girl there can have been
seldom one like that which followed Henchard's announcement of himself
to Elizabeth as her father. He had done it in an ardour and an agitation
which had half carried the point of affection with her; yet, behold,
from the next morning onwards his manner was constrained as she had
never seen it before.
The coldness soon broke out into open chiding. One grievous failing of
Elizabeth's was her occasional pretty and picturesque use of dialect
words--those terrible marks of the beast to the truly genteel.
It was dinner-time--they never met except at meals--and she happened to
say when he was rising from table, wishing to show him something, "If
you'll bide where you be a minute, father, I'll get it."
"'Bide where you be,'" he echoed sharply, "Good God, are you only fit to
carry wash to a pig-trough, that ye use such words as those?"
She reddened with shame and sadness.
"I meant 'Stay where you are,' father," she said, in a low, humble
voice. "I ought to have been more careful."
He made no reply, and went out of the room.
The sharp reprimand was not lost upon her, and in time it came to
pass that for "fay" she said "succeed"; that she no longer spoke of
"dumbledores" but of "humble bees"; no longer said of young men and
women that they "walked together," but that they were "engaged"; that
she grew to talk of "greggles" as "wild hyacinths"; that when she had
not slept she did not quaintly tell the servants next morning that she
had been "hag-rid," but that she had "suffered from indigestion."
These improvements, however, are somewhat in advance of the story.
Henchard, being uncultivated himself, was the bitterest critic the fair
girl could possibly have had of her own lapses--really slight now, for
she read omnivorously. A gratuitous ordeal was in store for her in the
matter of her handwriting. She was passing the dining-room door one
evening, and had occasion to go in for something. It was not till she
had opened the door that she knew the Mayor was there in the company of
a man with whom he transacted business.
"Here, Elizabeth-Jane," he said, looking round at her, "just write down
what I tell you--a few words of an agreement for me and this gentleman
to sign. I am a poor tool with a pen."
"Be jowned, and so be I," said the gentleman.
She brought forward blotting-book, paper, and ink, and sat down.
"Now then--'An agreement entered into this sixteenth day of
October'--write that first."
She started the pen in an elephantine march across the sheet. It was a
splendid round, bold hand of her own conception, a style that would have
stamped a woman as Minerva's own in more recent days. But other ideas
reigned then: Henchard's creed was that proper young girls wrote
ladies'-hand--nay, he believed that bristling characters were as innate
and inseparable a part of refined womanhood as sex itself. Hence when,
instead of scribbling, like the Princess Ida,--
"In such a hand as when a field of corn
Bows all its ears before the roaring East,"
Elizabeth-Jane produced a line of chain-shot and sand-bags, he reddened
in angry shame for her, and, peremptorily saying, "Never mind--I'll
finish it," dismissed her there and then.
Her considerate disposition became a pitfall to her now. She was, it
must be admitted, sometimes provokingly and unnecessarily willing to
saddle herself with manual labours. She would go to the kitchen instead
of ringing, "Not to make Phoebe come up twice." She went down on
her knees, shovel in hand, when the cat overturned the coal-scuttle;
moreover, she would persistently thank the parlour-maid for everything,
till one day, as soon as the girl was gone from the room, Henchard broke
out with, "Good God, why dostn't leave off thanking that girl as if she
were a goddess-born! Don't I pay her a dozen pound a year to do things
for 'ee?" Elizabeth shrank so visibly at the exclamation that he became
sorry a few minutes after, and said that he did not mean to be rough.
These domestic exhibitions were the small protruding needlerocks which
suggested rather than revealed what was underneath. But his passion had
less terror for her than his coldness. The increasing frequency of the
latter mood told her the sad news that he disliked her with a growing
dislike. The more interesting that her appearance and manners became
under the softening influences which she could now command, and in her
wisdom did command, the more she seemed to estrange him. Sometimes she
caught him looking at her with a louring invidiousness that she could
hardly bear. Not knowing his secret it was cruel mockery that she should
for the first time excite his animosity when she had taken his surname.
But the most terrible ordeal was to come. Elizabeth had latterly
been accustomed of an afternoon to present a cup of cider or ale and
bread-and-cheese to Nance Mockridge, who worked in the yard wimbling
hay-bonds. Nance accepted this offering thankfully at first; afterwards
as a matter of course. On a day when Henchard was on the premises he saw
his step-daughter enter the hay-barn on this errand; and, as there was
no clear spot on which to deposit the provisions, she at once set
to work arranging two trusses of hay as a table, Mockridge meanwhile
standing with her hands on her hips, easefully looking at the
preparations on her behalf.
"Elizabeth, come here!" said Henchard; and she obeyed.
"Why do you lower yourself so confoundedly?" he said with suppressed
passion. "Haven't I told you o't fifty times? Hey? Making yourself a
drudge for a common workwoman of such a character as hers! Why, ye'll
disgrace me to the dust!"
Now these words were uttered loud enough to reach Nance inside the barn
door, who fired up immediately at the slur upon her personal character.
Coming to the door she cried regardless of consequences, "Come to that,
Mr. Henchard, I can let 'ee know she've waited on worse!"
"Then she must have had more charity than sense," said Henchard.
"O no, she hadn't. 'Twere not for charity but for hire; and at a
public-house in this town!"
"It is not true!" cried Henchard indignantly.
"Just ask her," said Nance, folding her naked arms in such a manner that
she could comfortably scratch her elbows.
Henchard glanced at Elizabeth-Jane, whose complexion, now pink and white
from confinement, lost nearly all of the former colour. "What does this
mean?" he said to her. "Anything or nothing?"
"It is true," said Elizabeth-Jane. "But it was only--"
"Did you do it, or didn't you? Where was it?"
"At the Three Mariners; one evening for a little while, when we were
Nance glanced triumphantly at Henchard, and sailed into the barn; for
assuming that she was to be discharged on the instant she had resolved
to make the most of her victory. Henchard, however, said nothing about
discharging her. Unduly sensitive on such points by reason of his
own past, he had the look of one completely ground down to the last
indignity. Elizabeth followed him to the house like a culprit; but when
she got inside she could not see him. Nor did she see him again that
Convinced of the scathing damage to his local repute and position that
must have been caused by such a fact, though it had never before reached
his own ears, Henchard showed a positive distaste for the presence of
this girl not his own, whenever he encountered her. He mostly dined with
the farmers at the market-room of one of the two chief hotels, leaving
her in utter solitude. Could he have seen how she made use of those
silent hours he might have found reason to reserve his judgment on
her quality. She read and took notes incessantly, mastering facts with
painful laboriousness, but never flinching from her self-imposed task.
She began the study of Latin, incited by the Roman characteristics of
the town she lived in. "If I am not well-informed it shall be by no
fault of my own," she would say to herself through the tears that would
occasionally glide down her peachy cheeks when she was fairly baffled by
the portentous obscurity of many of these educational works.
Thus she lived on, a dumb, deep-feeling, great-eyed creature, construed
by not a single contiguous being; quenching with patient fortitude
her incipient interest in Farfrae, because it seemed to be one-sided,
unmaidenly, and unwise. True, that for reasons best known to herself,
she had, since Farfrae's dismissal, shifted her quarters from the back
room affording a view of the yard (which she had occupied with such
zest) to a front chamber overlooking the street; but as for the young
man, whenever he passed the house he seldom or never turned his head.
Winter had almost come, and unsettled weather made her still more
dependent upon indoor resources. But there were certain early winter
days in Casterbridge--days of firmamental exhaustion which followed
angry south-westerly tempests--when, if the sun shone, the air was like
velvet. She seized on these days for her periodical visits to the spot
where her mother lay buried--the still-used burial-ground of the old
Roman-British city, whose curious feature was this, its continuity as a
place of sepulture. Mrs. Henchard's dust mingled with the dust of women
who lay ornamented with glass hair-pins and amber necklaces, and men who
held in their mouths coins of Hadrian, Posthumus, and the Constantines.
Half-past ten in the morning was about her hour for seeking this spot--a
time when the town avenues were deserted as the avenues of Karnac.
Business had long since passed down them into its daily cells, and
Leisure had not arrived there. So Elizabeth-Jane walked and read,
or looked over the edge of the book to think, and thus reached the
There, approaching her mother's grave she saw a solitary dark figure in
the middle of the gravel-walk. This figure, too, was reading; but not
from a book: the words which engrossed it being the inscription on Mrs.
Henchard's tombstone. The personage was in mourning like herself, was
about her age and size, and might have been her wraith or double, but
for the fact that it was a lady much more beautifully dressed than she.
Indeed, comparatively indifferent as Elizabeth-Jane was to dress,
unless for some temporary whim or purpose, her eyes were arrested by
the artistic perfection of the lady's appearance. Her gait, too, had
a flexuousness about it, which seemed to avoid angularity. It was a
revelation to Elizabeth that human beings could reach this stage of
external development--she had never suspected it. She felt all the
freshness and grace to be stolen from herself on the instant by the
neighbourhood of such a stranger. And this was in face of the fact that
Elizabeth could now have been writ handsome, while the young lady was
Had she been envious she might have hated the woman; but she did not
do that--she allowed herself the pleasure of feeling fascinated. She
wondered where the lady had come from. The stumpy and practical walk of
honest homeliness which mostly prevailed there, the two styles of dress
thereabout, the simple and the mistaken, equally avouched that
this figure was no Casterbridge woman's, even if a book in her hand
resembling a guide-book had not also suggested it.
The stranger presently moved from the tombstone of Mrs. Henchard, and
vanished behind the corner of the wall. Elizabeth went to the tomb
herself; beside it were two footprints distinct in the soil, signifying
that the lady had stood there a long time. She returned homeward,
musing on what she had seen, as she might have mused on a rainbow or the
Northern Lights, a rare butterfly or a cameo.
Interesting as things had been out of doors, at home it turned out to
be one of her bad days. Henchard, whose two years' mayoralty was ending,
had been made aware that he was not to be chosen to fill a vacancy in
the list of aldermen; and that Farfrae was likely to become one of the
Council. This caused the unfortunate discovery that she had played the
waiting-maid in the town of which he was Mayor to rankle in his mind yet
more poisonously. He had learnt by personal inquiry at the time that
it was to Donald Farfrae--that treacherous upstart--that she had thus
humiliated herself. And though Mrs. Stannidge seemed to attach no great
importance to the incident--the cheerful souls at the Three Mariners
having exhausted its aspects long ago--such was Henchard's haughty
spirit that the simple thrifty deed was regarded as little less than a
social catastrophe by him.
Ever since the evening of his wife's arrival with her daughter there had
been something in the air which had changed his luck. That dinner at the
King's Arms with his friends had been Henchard's Austerlitz: he had had
his successes since, but his course had not been upward. He was not
to be numbered among the aldermen--that Peerage of burghers--as he had
expected to be, and the consciousness of this soured him to-day.
"Well, where have you been?" he said to her with offhand laconism.
"I've been strolling in the Walks and churchyard, father, till I feel
quite leery." She clapped her hand to her mouth, but too late.
This was just enough to incense Henchard after the other crosses of the
day. "I WON'T have you talk like that!" he thundered. "'Leery,' indeed.
One would think you worked upon a farm! One day I learn that you lend
a hand in public-houses. Then I hear you talk like a clodhopper. I'm
burned, if it goes on, this house can't hold us two."
The only way of getting a single pleasant thought to go to sleep upon
after this was by recalling the lady she had seen that day, and hoping
she might see her again.
Meanwhile Henchard was sitting up, thinking over his jealous folly in
forbidding Farfrae to pay his addresses to this girl who did not belong
to him, when if he had allowed them to go on he might not have been
encumbered with her. At last he said to himself with satisfaction as
he jumped up and went to the writing-table: "Ah! he'll think it means
peace, and a marriage portion--not that I don't want my house to be
troubled with her, and no portion at all!" He wrote as follows:--
Sir,--On consideration, I don't wish to interfere with your courtship of
Elizabeth-Jane, if you care for her. I therefore withdraw my objection;
excepting in this--that the business be not carried on in my house.--
Yours, M. HENCHARD Mr. Farfrae.
The morrow, being fairly fine, found Elizabeth-Jane again in the
churchyard, but while looking for the lady she was startled by the
apparition of Farfrae, who passed outside the gate. He glanced up for a
moment from a pocket-book in which he appeared to be making figures as
he went; whether or not he saw her he took no notice, and disappeared.
Unduly depressed by a sense of her own superfluity she thought he
probably scorned her; and quite broken in spirit sat down on a bench.
She fell into painful thought on her position, which ended with her
saying quite loud, "O, I wish I was dead with dear mother!"
Behind the bench was a little promenade under the wall where people
sometimes walked instead of on the gravel. The bench seemed to be
touched by something, she looked round, and a face was bending over her,
veiled, but still distinct, the face of the young woman she had seen
Elizabeth-Jane looked confounded for a moment, knowing she had been
overheard, though there was pleasure in her confusion. "Yes, I heard
you," said the lady, in a vivacious voice, answering her look. "What can
"I don't--I can't tell you," said Elizabeth, putting her hand to her
face to hide a quick flush that had come.
There was no movement or word for a few seconds; then the girl felt that
the young lady was sitting down beside her.
"I guess how it is with you," said the latter. "That was your mother."
She waved her hand towards the tombstone. Elizabeth looked up at her as
if inquiring of herself whether there should be confidence. The lady's
manner was so desirous, so anxious, that the girl decided there should
be confidence. "It was my mother," she said, "my only friend."
"But your father, Mr. Henchard. He is living?"
"Yes, he is living," said Elizabeth-Jane.
"Is he not kind to you?"
"I've no wish to complain of him."
"There has been a disagreement?"
"Perhaps you were to blame," suggested the stranger.
"I was--in many ways," sighed the meek Elizabeth. "I swept up the coals
when the servants ought to have done it; and I said I was leery;--and he
was angry with me."
The lady seemed to warm towards her for that reply. "Do you know the
impression your words give me?" she said ingenuously. "That he is a
hot-tempered man--a little proud--perhaps ambitious; but not a bad man."
Her anxiety not to condemn Henchard while siding with Elizabeth was
"O no; certainly not BAD," agreed the honest girl. "And he has not even
been unkind to me till lately--since mother died. But it has been very
much to bear while it has lasted. All is owing to my defects, I daresay;
and my defects are owing to my history."
"What is your history?"
Elizabeth-Jane looked wistfully at her questioner. She found that her
questioner was looking at her, turned her eyes down; and then seemed
compelled to look back again. "My history is not gay or attractive," she
said. "And yet I can tell it, if you really want to know."
The lady assured her that she did want to know; whereupon Elizabeth-Jane
told the tale of her life as she understood it, which was in general the
true one, except that the sale at the fair had no part therein.
Contrary to the girl's expectation her new friend was not shocked. This
cheered her; and it was not till she thought of returning to that home
in which she had been treated so roughly of late that her spirits fell.
"I don't know how to return," she murmured. "I think of going away. But
what can I do? Where can I go?"
"Perhaps it will be better soon," said her friend gently. "So I would
not go far. Now what do you think of this: I shall soon want somebody to
live in my house, partly as housekeeper, partly as companion; would you
mind coming to me? But perhaps--"
"O yes," cried Elizabeth, with tears in her eyes. "I would, indeed--I
would do anything to be independent; for then perhaps my father might
get to love me. But, ah!"
"I am no accomplished person. And a companion to you must be that."
"O, not necessarily."
"Not? But I can't help using rural words sometimes, when I don't mean
"Never mind, I shall like to know them."
"And--O, I know I shan't do!"--she cried with a distressful laugh. "I
accidentally learned to write round hand instead of ladies'-hand. And,
of course, you want some one who can write that?"
"What, not necessary to write ladies'-hand?" cried the joyous Elizabeth.
"Not at all."
"But where do you live?"
"In Casterbridge, or rather I shall be living here after twelve o'clock
Elizabeth expressed her astonishment.
"I have been staying at Budmouth for a few days while my house
was getting ready. The house I am going into is that one they call
High-Place Hall--the old stone one looking down the lane to the market.
Two or three rooms are fit for occupation, though not all: I sleep there
to-night for the first time. Now will you think over my proposal, and
meet me here the first fine day next week, and say if you are still in
the same mind?"
Elizabeth, her eyes shining at this prospect of a change from an
unbearable position, joyfully assented; and the two parted at the gate
of the churchyard.
As a maxim glibly repeated from childhood remains practically unmarked
till some mature experience enforces it, so did this High-Place Hall now
for the first time really show itself to Elizabeth-Jane, though her ears
had heard its name on a hundred occasions.
Her mind dwelt upon nothing else but the stranger, and the house,
and her own chance of living there, all the rest of the day. In the
afternoon she had occasion to pay a few bills in the town and do a
little shopping when she learnt that what was a new discovery to
herself had become a common topic about the streets. High-Place Hall
was undergoing repair; a lady was coming there to live shortly; all the
shop-people knew it, and had already discounted the chance of her being
Elizabeth-Jane could, however, add a capping touch to information so new
to her in the bulk. The lady, she said, had arrived that day.
When the lamps were lighted, and it was yet not so dark as to render
chimneys, attics, and roofs invisible, Elizabeth, almost with a lover's
feeling, thought she would like to look at the outside of High-Place
Hall. She went up the street in that direction.
The Hall, with its grey facade and parapet, was the only residence of
its sort so near the centre of the town. It had, in the first place, the
characteristics of a country mansion--birds' nests in its chimneys,
damp nooks where fungi grew and irregularities of surface direct from
Nature's trowel. At night the forms of passengers were patterned by the
lamps in black shadows upon the pale walls.
This evening motes of straw lay around, and other signs of the premises
having been in that lawless condition which accompanies the entry of a
new tenant. The house was entirely of stone, and formed an example of
dignity without great size. It was not altogether aristocratic, still
less consequential, yet the old-fashioned stranger instinctively said
"Blood built it, and Wealth enjoys it" however vague his opinions of
those accessories might be.
Yet as regards the enjoying it the stranger would have been wrong, for
until this very evening, when the new lady had arrived, the house had
been empty for a year or two while before that interval its occupancy
had been irregular. The reason of its unpopularity was soon made
manifest. Some of its rooms overlooked the market-place; and such a
prospect from such a house was not considered desirable or seemly by its
Elizabeth's eyes sought the upper rooms, and saw lights there. The lady
had obviously arrived. The impression that this woman of comparatively
practised manner had made upon the studious girl's mind was so deep that
she enjoyed standing under an opposite archway merely to think that the
charming lady was inside the confronting walls, and to wonder what
she was doing. Her admiration for the architecture of that front was
entirely on account of the inmate it screened. Though for that matter
the architecture deserved admiration, or at least study, on its own
account. It was Palladian, and like most architecture erected since
the Gothic age was a compilation rather than a design. But its
reasonableness made it impressive. It was not rich, but rich enough. A
timely consciousness of the ultimate vanity of human architecture, no
less than of other human things, had prevented artistic superfluity.
Men had still quite recently been going in and out with parcels
and packing-cases, rendering the door and hall within like a public
thoroughfare. Elizabeth trotted through the open door in the dusk,
but becoming alarmed at her own temerity she went quickly out again by
another which stood open in the lofty wall of the back court. To her
surprise she found herself in one of the little-used alleys of the town.
Looking round at the door which had given her egress, by the light of
the solitary lamp fixed in the alley, she saw that it was arched and
old--older even than the house itself. The door was studded, and the
keystone of the arch was a mask. Originally the mask had exhibited a
comic leer, as could still be discerned; but generations of Casterbridge
boys had thrown stones at the mask, aiming at its open mouth; and the
blows thereon had chipped off the lips and jaws as if they had been
eaten away by disease. The appearance was so ghastly by the weakly
lamp-glimmer that she could not bear to look at it--the first unpleasant
feature of her visit.
The position of the queer old door and the odd presence of the leering
mask suggested one thing above all others as appertaining to the
mansion's past history--intrigue. By the alley it had been possible to
come unseen from all sorts of quarters in the town--the old play-house,
the old bull-stake, the old cock-pit, the pool wherein nameless
infants had been used to disappear. High-Place Hall could boast of its
She turned to come away in the nearest direction homeward, which was
down the alley, but hearing footsteps approaching in that quarter, and
having no great wish to be found in such a place at such a time she
quickly retreated. There being no other way out she stood behind a brick
pier till the intruder should have gone his ways.
Had she watched she would have been surprised. She would have seen that
the pedestrian on coming up made straight for the arched doorway: that
as he paused with his hand upon the latch the lamplight fell upon the
face of Henchard.
But Elizabeth-Jane clung so closely to her nook that she discerned
nothing of this. Henchard passed in, as ignorant of her presence as she
was ignorant of his identity, and disappeared in the darkness. Elizabeth
came out a second time into the alley, and made the best of her way
Henchard's chiding, by begetting in her a nervous fear of doing anything
definable as unladylike, had operated thus curiously in keeping them
unknown to each other at a critical moment. Much might have resulted
from recognition--at the least a query on either side in one and the
selfsame form: What could he or she possibly be doing there?
Henchard, whatever his business at the lady's house, reached his own
home only a few minutes later than Elizabeth-Jane. Her plan was to
broach the question of leaving his roof this evening; the events of the
day had urged her to the course. But its execution depended upon his
mood, and she anxiously awaited his manner towards her. She found that
it had changed. He showed no further tendency to be angry; he
showed something worse. Absolute indifference had taken the place
of irritability; and his coldness was such that it encouraged her to
departure, even more than hot temper could have done.
"Father, have you any objection to my going away?" she asked.
"Going away! No--none whatever. Where are you going?"
She thought it undesirable and unnecessary to say anything at present
about her destination to one who took so little interest in her. He
would know that soon enough. "I have heard of an opportunity of getting
more cultivated and finished, and being less idle," she answered,
with hesitation. "A chance of a place in a household where I can have
advantages of study, and seeing refined life."
"Then make the best of it, in Heaven's name--if you can't get cultivated
where you are."
"You don't object?"
"Object--I? Ho--no! Not at all." After a pause he said, "But you won't
have enough money for this lively scheme without help, you know? If you
like I should be willing to make you an allowance, so that you not be
bound to live upon the starvation wages refined folk are likely to pay
She thanked him for this offer.
"It had better be done properly," he added after a pause. "A small
annuity is what I should like you to have--so as to be independent of
me--and so that I may be independent of you. Would that please ye?"
"Then I'll see about it this very day." He seemed relieved to get her
off his hands by this arrangement, and as far as they were concerned the
matter was settled. She now simply waited to see the lady again.
The day and the hour came; but a drizzling rain fell. Elizabeth-Jane
having now changed her orbit from one of gay independence to laborious
self-help, thought the weather good enough for such declined glory as
hers, if her friend would only face it--a matter of doubt. She went to
the boot-room where her pattens had hung ever since her apotheosis; took
them down, had their mildewed leathers blacked, and put them on as she
had done in old times. Thus mounted, and with cloak and umbrella, she
went off to the place of appointment--intending, if the lady were not
there, to call at the house.
One side of the churchyard--the side towards the weather--was sheltered
by an ancient thatched mud wall whose eaves overhung as much as one or
two feet. At the back of the wall was a corn-yard with its granary and
barns--the place wherein she had met Farfrae many months earlier. Under
the projection of the thatch she saw a figure. The young lady had come.
Her presence so exceptionally substantiated the girl's utmost hopes that
she almost feared her good fortune. Fancies find rooms in the strongest
minds. Here, in a churchyard old as civilization, in the worst of
weathers, was a strange woman of curious fascinations never seen
elsewhere: there might be some devilry about her presence. However,
Elizabeth went on to the church tower, on whose summit the rope of a
flagstaff rattled in the wind; and thus she came to the wall.
The lady had such a cheerful aspect in the drizzle that Elizabeth forgot
her fancy. "Well," said the lady, a little of the whiteness of her teeth
appearing with the word through the black fleece that protected her
face, "have you decided?"
"Yes, quite," said the other eagerly.
"Your father is willing?"
"Then come along."
"Now--as soon as you like. I had a good mind to send to you to come to
my house, thinking you might not venture up here in the wind. But as I
like getting out of doors, I thought I would come and see first."
"It was my own thought."
"That shows we shall agree. Then can you come to-day? My house is so
hollow and dismal that I want some living thing there."
"I think I might be able to," said the girl, reflecting.
Voices were borne over to them at that instant on the wind and raindrops
from the other side of the wall. There came such words as "sacks,"
"quarters," "threshing," "tailing," "next Saturday's market," each
sentence being disorganized by the gusts like a face in a cracked
mirror. Both the women listened.
"Who are those?" said the lady.
"One is my father. He rents that yard and barn."
The lady seemed to forget the immediate business in listening to the
technicalities of the corn trade. At last she said suddenly, "Did you
tell him where you were going to?"
"O--how was that?"
"I thought it safer to get away first--as he is so uncertain in his
"Perhaps you are right....Besides, I have never told you my name. It is
Miss Templeman....Are they gone--on the other side?"
"No. They have only gone up into the granary."
"Well, it is getting damp here. I shall expect you to-day--this evening,
say, at six."
"Which way shall I come, ma'am?"
"The front way--round by the gate. There is no other that I have
Elizabeth-Jane had been thinking of the door in the alley.
"Perhaps, as you have not mentioned your destination, you may as well
keep silent upon it till you are clear off. Who knows but that he may
alter his mind?"
Elizabeth-Jane shook her head. "On consideration I don't fear it," she
said sadly. "He has grown quite cold to me."
"Very well. Six o'clock then."
When they had emerged upon the open road and parted, they found enough
to do in holding their bowed umbrellas to the wind. Nevertheless the
lady looked in at the corn-yard gates as she passed them, and paused on
one foot for a moment. But nothing was visible there save the ricks, and
the humpbacked barn cushioned with moss, and the granary rising against
the church-tower behind, where the smacking of the rope against the
flag-staff still went on.
Now Henchard had not the slightest suspicion that Elizabeth-Jane's
movement was to be so prompt. Hence when, just before six, he
reached home and saw a fly at the door from the King's Arms, and his
step-daughter, with all her little bags and boxes, getting into it, he
was taken by surprise.
"But you said I might go, father?" she explained through the carriage
"Said!--yes. But I thought you meant next month, or next year. 'Od,
seize it--you take time by the forelock! This, then, is how you be going
to treat me for all my trouble about ye?"
"O father! how can you speak like that? It is unjust of you!" she said
"Well, well, have your own way," he replied. He entered the house, and,
seeing that all her things had not yet been brought down, went up to
her room to look on. He had never been there since she had occupied it.
Evidences of her care, of her endeavours for improvement, were
visible all around, in the form of books, sketches, maps, and little
arrangements for tasteful effects. Henchard had known nothing of these
efforts. He gazed at them, turned suddenly about, and came down to the
"Look here," he said, in an altered voice--he never called her by
name now--"don't 'ee go away from me. It may be I've spoke roughly to
you--but I've been grieved beyond everything by you--there's something
that caused it."
"By me?" she said, with deep concern. "What have I done?"
"I can't tell you now. But if you'll stop, and go on living as my
daughter, I'll tell you all in time."
But the proposal had come ten minutes too late. She was in the fly--was
already, in imagination, at the house of the lady whose manner had such
charms for her. "Father," she said, as considerately as she could, "I
think it best for us that I go on now. I need not stay long; I shall not
be far away, and if you want me badly I can soon come back again."
He nodded ever so slightly, as a receipt of her decision and no more.
"You are not going far, you say. What will be your address, in case I
wish to write to you? Or am I not to know?"
"Oh yes--certainly. It is only in the town--High-Place Hall!"
"Where?" said Henchard, his face stilling.
She repeated the words. He neither moved nor spoke, and waving her hand
to him in utmost friendliness she signified to the flyman to drive up
We go back for a moment to the preceding night, to account for
At the hour when Elizabeth-Jane was contemplating her stealthy
reconnoitring excursion to the abode of the lady of her fancy, he had
been not a little amazed at receiving a letter by hand in Lucetta's
well-known characters. The self-repression, the resignation of her
previous communication had vanished from her mood; she wrote with
some of the natural lightness which had marked her in their early
MY DEAR MR. HENCHARD,--Don't be surprised. It is for your good and mine,
as I hope, that I have come to live at Casterbridge--for how long I
cannot tell. That depends upon another; and he is a man, and a merchant,
and a Mayor, and one who has the first right to my affections.
Seriously, mon ami, I am not so light-hearted as I may seem to be from
this. I have come here in consequence of hearing of the death of your
wife--whom you used to think of as dead so many years before! Poor
woman, she seems to have been a sufferer, though uncomplaining, and
though weak in intellect not an imbecile. I am glad you acted fairly by
her. As soon as I knew she was no more, it was brought home to me very
forcibly by my conscience that I ought to endeavour to disperse the
shade which my etourderie flung over my name, by asking you to carry out
your promise to me. I hope you are of the same mind, and that you
will take steps to this end. As, however, I did not know how you were
situated, or what had happened since our separation, I decided to come
and establish myself here before communicating with you.
You probably feel as I do about this. I shall be able to see you in a
day or two. Till then, farewell.--Yours,
P.S.--I was unable to keep my appointment to meet you for a moment or
two in passing through Casterbridge the other day. My plans were altered
by a family event, which it will surprise you to hear of.
Henchard had already heard that High-Place Hall was being prepared for
a tenant. He said with a puzzled air to the first person he encountered,
"Who is coming to live at the Hall?"
"A lady of the name of Templeman, I believe, sir," said his informant.
Henchard thought it over. "Lucetta is related to her, I suppose,"
he said to himself. "Yes, I must put her in her proper position,
It was by no means with the oppression that would once have accompanied
the thought that he regarded the moral necessity now; it was, indeed,
with interest, if not warmth. His bitter disappointment at finding
Elizabeth-Jane to be none of his, and himself a childless man, had left
an emotional void in Henchard that he unconsciously craved to fill. In
this frame of mind, though without strong feeling, he had strolled up
the alley and into High-Place Hall by the postern at which Elizabeth
had so nearly encountered him. He had gone on thence into the court, and
inquired of a man whom he saw unpacking china from a crate if Miss Le
Sueur was living there. Miss Le Sueur had been the name under which he
had known Lucetta--or "Lucette," as she had called herself at that time.
The man replied in the negative; that Miss Templeman only had come.
Henchard went away, concluding that Lucetta had not as yet settled in.
He was in this interested stage of the inquiry when he witnessed
Elizabeth-Jane's departure the next day. On hearing her announce the
address there suddenly took possession of him the strange thought that
Lucetta and Miss Templeman were one and the same person, for he could
recall that in her season of intimacy with him the name of the rich
relative whom he had deemed somewhat a mythical personage had been given
as Templeman. Though he was not a fortune-hunter, the possibility
that Lucetta had been sublimed into a lady of means by some munificent
testament on the part of this relative lent a charm to her image which
it might not otherwise have acquired. He was getting on towards the dead
level of middle age, when material things increasingly possess the mind.
But Henchard was not left long in suspense. Lucetta was rather addicted
to scribbling, as had been shown by the torrent of letters after the
fiasco in their marriage arrangements, and hardly had Elizabeth gone
away when another note came to the Mayor's house from High-Place Hall.
"I am in residence," she said, "and comfortable, though getting here has
been a wearisome undertaking. You probably know what I am going to tell
you, or do you not? My good Aunt Templeman, the banker's widow, whose
very existence you used to doubt, much more her affluence, has lately
died, and bequeathed some of her property to me. I will not enter into
details except to say that I have taken her name--as a means of escape
from mine, and its wrongs.
"I am now my own mistress, and have chosen to reside in Casterbridge--to
be tenant of High-Place Hall, that at least you may be put to no trouble
if you wish to see me. My first intention was to keep you in ignorance
of the changes in my life till you should meet me in the street; but I
have thought better of this.
"You probably are aware of my arrangement with your daughter, and have
doubtless laughed at the--what shall I call it?--practical joke (in all
affection) of my getting her to live with me. But my first meeting with
her was purely an accident. Do you see, Michael, partly why I have done
it?--why, to give you an excuse for coming here as if to visit HER, and
thus to form my acquaintance naturally. She is a dear, good girl, and
she thinks you have treated her with undue severity. You may have done
so in your haste, but not deliberately, I am sure. As the result has
been to bring her to me I am not disposed to upbraid you.--In haste,
The excitement which these announcements produced in Henchard's gloomy
soul was to him most pleasurable. He sat over his dining-table long and
dreamily, and by an almost mechanical transfer the sentiments which
had run to waste since his estrangement from Elizabeth-Jane and Donald
Farfrae gathered around Lucetta before they had grown dry. She was
plainly in a very coming-on disposition for marriage. But what else
could a poor woman be who had given her time and her heart to him
so thoughtlessly, at that former time, as to lose her credit by it?
Probably conscience no less than affection had brought her here. On the
whole he did not blame her.
"The artful little woman!" he said, smiling (with reference to Lucetta's
adroit and pleasant manoeuvre with Elizabeth-Jane).
To feel that he would like to see Lucetta was with Henchard to start
for her house. He put on his hat and went. It was between eight and nine
o'clock when he reached her door. The answer brought him was that Miss
Templeman was engaged for that evening; but that she would be happy to
see him the next day.
"That's rather like giving herself airs!" he thought. "And considering
what we--" But after all, she plainly had not expected him, and he took
the refusal quietly. Nevertheless he resolved not to go next day. "These
cursed women--there's not an inch of straight grain in 'em!" he said.
Let us follow the train of Mr. Henchard's thought as if it were a
clue line, and view the interior of High-Place Hall on this particular
On Elizabeth-Jane's arrival she had been phlegmatically asked by an
elderly woman to go upstairs and take off her things. She replied with
great earnestness that she would not think of giving that trouble, and
on the instant divested herself of her bonnet and cloak in the passage.
She was then conducted to the first floor on the landing, and left to
find her way further alone.
The room disclosed was prettily furnished as a boudoir or small
drawing-room, and on a sofa with two cylindrical pillows reclined a
dark-haired, large-eyed, pretty woman, of unmistakably French extraction
on one side or the other. She was probably some years older than
Elizabeth, and had a sparkling light in her eye. In front of the sofa
was a small table, with a pack of cards scattered upon it faces upward.
The attitude had been so full of abandonment that she bounded up like a
spring on hearing the door open.
Perceiving that it was Elizabeth she lapsed into ease, and came across
to her with a reckless skip that innate grace only prevented from being
"Why, you are late," she said, taking hold of Elizabeth-Jane's hands.
"There were so many little things to put up."
"And you seem dead-alive and tired. Let me try to enliven you by some
wonderful tricks I have learnt, to kill time. Sit there and don't move."
She gathered up the pack of cards, pulled the table in front of her, and
began to deal them rapidly, telling Elizabeth to choose some.
"Well, have you chosen?" she asked flinging down the last card.
"No," stammered Elizabeth, arousing herself from a reverie. "I forgot, I
was thinking of--you, and me--and how strange it is that I am here."
Miss Templeman looked at Elizabeth-Jane with interest, and laid down the
cards. "Ah! never mind," she said. "I'll lie here while you sit by me;
and we'll talk."
Elizabeth drew up silently to the head of the sofa, but with obvious
pleasure. It could be seen that though in years she was younger than her
entertainer in manner and general vision she seemed more of the sage.
Miss Templeman deposited herself on the sofa in her former flexuous
position, and throwing her arm above her brow--somewhat in the pose of
a well-known conception of Titian's--talked up at Elizabeth-Jane
invertedly across her forehead and arm.
"I must tell you something," she said. "I wonder if you have suspected
it. I have only been mistress of a large house and fortune a little
"Oh--only a little while?" murmured Elizabeth-Jane, her countenance
"As a girl I lived about in garrison towns and elsewhere with my father,
till I was quite flighty and unsettled. He was an officer in the army. I
should not have mentioned this had I not thought it best you should know
"Yes, yes." She looked thoughtfully round the room--at the little square
piano with brass inlayings, at the window-curtains, at the lamp, at the
fair and dark kings and queens on the card-table, and finally at the
inverted face of Lucetta Templeman, whose large lustrous eyes had such
an odd effect upside down.
Elizabeth's mind ran on acquirements to an almost morbid degree. "You
speak French and Italian fluently, no doubt," she said. "I have not been
able to get beyond a wretched bit of Latin yet."
"Well, for that matter, in my native isle speaking French does not go
for much. It is rather the other way."
"Where is your native isle?"
It was with rather more reluctance that Miss Templeman said, "Jersey.
There they speak French on one side of the street and English on the
other, and a mixed tongue in the middle of the road. But it is a long
time since I was there. Bath is where my people really belong to, though
my ancestors in Jersey were as good as anybody in England. They were
the Le Sueurs, an old family who have done great things in their time.
I went back and lived there after my father's death. But I don't value
such past matters, and am quite an English person in my feelings and
Lucetta's tongue had for a moment outrun her discretion. She had arrived
at Casterbridge as a Bath lady, and there were obvious reasons why
Jersey should drop out of her life. But Elizabeth had tempted her to
make free, and a deliberately formed resolve had been broken.
It could not, however, have been broken in safer company. Lucetta's
words went no further, and after this day she was so much upon her
guard that there appeared no chance of her identification with the young
Jersey woman who had been Henchard's dear comrade at a critical time.
Not the least amusing of her safeguards was her resolute avoidance of a
French word if one by accident came to her tongue more readily than
its English equivalent. She shirked it with the suddenness of the weak
Apostle at the accusation, "Thy speech bewrayeth thee!"
Expectancy sat visibly upon Lucetta the next morning. She dressed
herself for Mr. Henchard, and restlessly awaited his call before
mid-day; as he did not come she waited on through the afternoon. But
she did not tell Elizabeth that the person expected was the girl's
They sat in adjoining windows of the same room in Lucetta's great stone
mansion, netting, and looking out upon the market, which formed an
animated scene. Elizabeth could see the crown of her stepfather's hat
among the rest beneath, and was not aware that Lucetta watched the same
object with yet intenser interest. He moved about amid the throng, at
this point lively as an ant-hill; elsewhere more reposeful, and broken
up by stalls of fruit and vegetables.
The farmers as a rule preferred the open carrefour for their
transactions, despite its inconvenient jostlings and the danger from
crossing vehicles, to the gloomy sheltered market-room provided for
them. Here they surged on this one day of the week, forming a little
world of leggings, switches, and sample-bags; men of extensive stomachs,
sloping like mountain sides; men whose heads in walking swayed as the
trees in November gales; who in conversing varied their attitudes much,
lowering themselves by spreading their knees, and thrusting their hands
into the pockets of remote inner jackets. Their faces radiated tropical
warmth; for though when at home their countenances varied with the
seasons, their market-faces all the year round were glowing little
All over-clothes here were worn as if they were an inconvenience, a
hampering necessity. Some men were well dressed; but the majority were
careless in that respect, appearing in suits which were historical
records of their wearer's deeds, sun-scorchings, and daily struggles for
many years past. Yet many carried ruffled cheque-books in their pockets
which regulated at the bank hard by a balance of never less than four
figures. In fact, what these gibbous human shapes specially represented
was ready money--money insistently ready--not ready next year like
a nobleman's--often not merely ready at the bank like a professional
man's, but ready in their large plump hands.
It happened that to-day there rose in the midst of them all two or
three tall apple-trees standing as if they grew on the spot; till it was
perceived that they were held by men from the cider-districts who came
here to sell them, bringing the clay of their county on their boots.
Elizabeth-Jane, who had often observed them, said, "I wonder if the same
trees come every week?"
"What trees?" said Lucetta, absorbed in watching for Henchard.
Elizabeth replied vaguely, for an incident checked her. Behind one of
the trees stood Farfrae, briskly discussing a sample-bag with a farmer.
Henchard had come up, accidentally encountering the young man, whose
face seemed to inquire, "Do we speak to each other?"
She saw her stepfather throw a shine into his eye which answered "No!"
"Are you particularly interested in anybody out there?" said Lucetta.
"O, no," said her companion, a quick red shooting over her face.
Luckily Farfrae's figure was immediately covered by the apple-tree.
Lucetta looked hard at her. "Quite sure?" she said.
"O yes," said Elizabeth-Jane.
Again Lucetta looked out. "They are all farmers, I suppose?" she said.
"No. There's Mr. Bulge--he's a wine merchant; there's Benjamin
Brownlet--a horse dealer; and Kitson, the pig breeder; and Yopper, the
auctioneer; besides maltsters, and millers--and so on." Farfrae stood
out quite distinctly now; but she did not mention him.
The Saturday afternoon slipped on thus desultorily. The market changed
from the sample-showing hour to the idle hour before starting homewards,
when tales were told. Henchard had not called on Lucetta though he had
stood so near. He must have been too busy, she thought. He would come on
Sunday or Monday.
The days came but not the visitor, though Lucetta repeated her dressing
with scrupulous care. She got disheartened. It may at once be declared
that Lucetta no longer bore towards Henchard all that warm allegiance
which had characterized her in their first acquaintance, the then
unfortunate issue of things had chilled pure love considerably. But
there remained a conscientious wish to bring about her union with him,
now that there was nothing to hinder it--to right her position--which
in itself was a happiness to sigh for. With strong social reasons on
her side why their marriage should take place there had ceased to be
any worldly reason on his why it should be postponed, since she had
succeeded to fortune.
Tuesday was the great Candlemas fair. At breakfast she said to
Elizabeth-Jane quite coolly: "I imagine your father may call to see you
to-day. I suppose he stands close by in the market-place with the rest
of the corn-dealers?"
She shook her head. "He won't come."
"He has taken against me," she said in a husky voice.
"You have quarreled more deeply than I know of."
Elizabeth, wishing to shield the man she believed to be her father from
any charge of unnatural dislike, said "Yes."
"Then where you are is, of all places, the one he will avoid?"
Elizabeth nodded sadly.
Lucetta looked blank, twitched up her lovely eyebrows and lip, and
burst into hysterical sobs. Here was a disaster--her ingenious scheme
"O, my dear Miss Templeman--what's the matter?" cried her companion.
"I like your company much!" said Lucetta, as soon as she could speak.
"Yes, yes--and so do I yours!" Elizabeth chimed in soothingly.
"But--but--" She could not finish the sentence, which was, naturally,
that if Henchard had such a rooted dislike for the girl as now seemed to
be the case, Elizabeth-Jane would have to be got rid of--a disagreeable
A provisional resource suggested itself. "Miss Henchard--will you go on
an errand for me as soon as breakfast is over?--Ah, that's very good of
you. Will you go and order--" Here she enumerated several commissions at
sundry shops, which would occupy Elizabeth's time for the next hour or
two, at least.
"And have you ever seen the Museum?"
Elizabeth-Jane had not.
"Then you should do so at once. You can finish the morning by going
there. It is an old house in a back street--I forget where--but you'll
find out--and there are crowds of interesting things--skeletons, teeth,
old pots and pans, ancient boots and shoes, birds' eggs--all charmingly
instructive. You'll be sure to stay till you get quite hungry."
Elizabeth hastily put on her things and departed. "I wonder why she
wants to get rid of me to-day!" she said sorrowfully as she went. That
her absence, rather than her services or instruction, was in request,
had been readily apparent to Elizabeth-Jane, simple as she seemed, and
difficult as it was to attribute a motive for the desire.
She had not been gone ten minutes when one of Lucetta's servants wa
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