Sunday, October 28, 2007


The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy

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 heard.
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 dinnerbag
suspended from it. The reader promptly glanced up.
"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'
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 mine."
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 Homebrewed
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 day."
"I've never tasted it," said the man. However, he gave way
to her representations, and they entered the furmity booth
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 bellmetal.
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 misgiving.
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 theme.
"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' creation."
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
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
subject dropped.
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. Come!"
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
"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 saying."
The woman, however, did stand up. "Now, who's auctioneer?"
cried the hay-trusser.
"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
"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
"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
"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
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, four, five.
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 lips.
"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 repentance there.
"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 finality.
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 gazed around.
"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 Weydon Fair-field.
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 bitterest temper!"
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
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 oath!"
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
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 wellformed
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
"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 me."
"He is, or was--for he may be dead--a connection by
marriage," said her mother deliberately.
"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, I suppose?"
"Not by any means."
"He was a hay-trusser, wasn't he, when you last heard of
"He was."
"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 the field.
"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 there."
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 draw nearer.
"Don't speak to her--it isn't respectable!" urged the other.
"I will just say a word--you, Elizabeth-Jane, can stay
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 sixpennyworths
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
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 days?"
"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-andthirty
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 ago to-day?"
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
records show.
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 shoreman.
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
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 straitwaistcoat
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 inquiries."
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 burghers.
Though the two women did not know it these external features
were but the ancient defences of the town, planted as a
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 drawingstring,
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, hedginggloves,
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 pockets.
"How does it happen there's no good bread?" asked Mrs.
"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 fiat 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
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 England."
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
"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 converse.
"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 water.
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
"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
"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 long!"
"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 haydealing
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,
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
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 listening.
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 doorpost.
"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
The waiter took the note, while the young stranger
"And can ye tell me of a respectable hotel that's a little
more moderate than this?"
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 the Mayor.
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 corndealings
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
"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 waitingmaids--
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 down.
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
"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
"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 parent's meal.
While she was doing this the wood partition in the centre of
the house thrilled to its centre with the tugging of a bellpull
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 fourposters,
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
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
Thus silently conjured Elizabeth deposited the tray, and her
mother whispered as she drew near, "'Tis he."
"Who?" said the girl.
"The Mayor."
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 followed.
"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
"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 taste that."
"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 haytrusser
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 ale."
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 stomach."
"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 wellnigh
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
"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 Arms.
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, d'ye say?"
"Yes, straight from the mountains of Scotland, I believe,"
replied Coney.
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 North Pole."
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
"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 then.
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 perpendicular.
"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 snow!"
"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 Christopher Coney.
"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--notwithstanding
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 room.
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
"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 heartshaped
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
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."
"Which way?"
"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
"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 of view.
"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
"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 their own.
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 redand-
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 cornmerchant,
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
"Yes, what it is?" said the Scotchman, like a man who
permanently ruled there.
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
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 flushed.
"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 man!"
His hand, which had lain lifeless in Henchard's, returned
the latter's grasp.
"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
confidence now.
"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
"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 letter.
"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 everywhere.
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
"Yes, sir."
"Are you her daughter?"
"Yes, sir--her only daughter."
"What--do you call yourself--your Christian name?"
"Elizabeth-Jane, sir."
"Elizabeth-Jane Newson."
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 comer 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
"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 from Canada."
"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
"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 ran thus:--
"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 towngallows
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 longlost
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 first words.
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 it either."
"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
"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 o't."
"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 cottage."
"If the lodgings are in High Street they are dear, I
"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?"
"O yes."
"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
"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
"Right," said Henchard. "But just one word. Do you forgive
me, Susan?"
She murmured something; but seemed to find it difficult to
frame her answer.
"Never mind--all in good time," said he. "Judge me by my
future works--good-bye!"
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 tantalizing art.
"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 house.
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
"I'll be glad to hear it, if I can be of any service," said
Donald, allowing his eyes to travel over the intricate woodcarvings
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, carying 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
"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 Donald.
"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
"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 both."
"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
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 pocket."
"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 twenty years."
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 nothing.
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 woman.
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 marvels."
"'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 zilversnuffers,
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 fiery disdain.
"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 bluebeardy
look about 'en; and 'twill out in time."
"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 along."
"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
"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 womanliness.
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
"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 to't!"
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 won't
"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
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
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 name.
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
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
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.
Farfrae had.
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; greenthatched
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
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 steps.
"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 a mistake."
"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 be gone.
"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
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 having."
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
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 longer."
"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 happen to-morrow.
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' cheese and--"
"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 way."
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
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
"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 back?"
All the men looked towards Farfrae.
"I am," said Donald. "I say this joke has been carried far
"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
"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--
"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 they?"
He went towards Durnover. On his way he overtook Farfrae.
They walked on together, Henchard looking mostly on the
"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 I forget?"
"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 his life.
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 little change.
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 entirely free.
He had grown so dependent upon Donald that he could scarcely
resist calling him in to consult. But by sheer selfcoercion
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 exploit.
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 transcended these.
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
"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 clothesbox,
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 dancing pavilion.
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 reflecting.
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 with you."
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
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 stopped.
"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 at all."
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 up breathless.
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
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
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
"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
Reaching home he seemed to recollect something with a sour
satisfaction. He called Elizabeth-Jane. Seeing how he
looked when she entered she appeared alarmed.
"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 again."
"Very well, sir."
"You promise?"
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 thus:--
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-inlaw.
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
"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
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-andspotted
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, cornmerchants,
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 in soul.
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 reproaches were.
"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, indeed!"
The contingency that he had in his mind was, of course, the
death of Mrs. Henchard.
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:--
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 subtlesouled
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 reason?"
"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
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
"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 Richard Newson?"
"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
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 better man.
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 father!"
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
"Very well."
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
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
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 deserved.
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 with
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
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 north-eastern side.
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
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 matrimony.
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
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 diningroom
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
"Be jowned, and so be I," said the gentleman.
She brought forward blotting-book, paper, and ink, and sat
"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
"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 staying there."
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 day.
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 burialground
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 churchyard.
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 simply pretty.
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
"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 publichouses.
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.--
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 yesterday.
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 have
"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
"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?"
"A little."
"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 to."
"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?"
"Well, no."
"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 to-day."
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 a customer.
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 would-be occupiers.
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 bullstake,
the old cock-pit, the pool wherein nameless infants
had been used to disappear. High-Place Hall could boast of
its conveniences undoubtedly.
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 home.
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
"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 'ee."
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
"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
"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
"O--how was that?"
"I thought it safer to get away first--as he is so uncertain
in his temper."
"Perhaps you are right....Besides, I have never told you my
name. It is Miss Templeman....Are they gone--on the other
"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 noticed."
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 window.
"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 with spirit.
"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 door.
"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
"Oh yes--certainly. It is only in the town--High-Place
"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 the street.
We go back for a moment to the preceding night, to account
for Henchard's attitude.
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 acquaintance.
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
"A lady of the name of Templeman, I believe, sir," said his
Henchard thought it over. "Lucetta is related to her, I
suppose," he said to himself. "Yes, I must put her in her
proper position, undoubtedly."
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 fortunehunter,
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, yours always,
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-
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 evening.
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
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 boisterous.
"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
"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 while."
"Oh--only a little while?" murmured Elizabeth-Jane, her
countenance slightly falling.
"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 the truth."
"Yes, yes." She looked thoughtfully round the room--at the
little square piano with brass inlayings, at the windowcurtains,
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 tastes."
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 stepfather.
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 fires.
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
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!" Elizabeth-Jane sighed.
"Are you particularly interested in anybody out there?" said
"O, no," said her companion, a quick red shooting over her
Luckily Farfrae's figure was immediately covered by the
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
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 completely stultified.
"O, my dear Miss Templeman--what's the matter?" cried her
"I like your company much!" said Lucetta, as soon as she
could speak.
"Yes, yes--and so do I yours!" Elizabeth chimed in
"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 necessity.
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
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 was sent to Henchard's with a note. The contents
were briefly:--
DEAR MICHAEL,--You will be standing in view of my house today
for two or three hours in the course of your business,
so do please call and see me. I am sadly disappointed that
you have not come before, for can I help anxiety about my
own equivocal relation to you?--especially now my aunt's
fortune has brought me more prominently before society? Your
daughter's presence here may be the cause of your neglect;
and I have therefore sent her away for the morning. Say you
come on business--I shall be quite alone.
When the messenger returned her mistress gave directions
that if a gentleman called he was to be admitted at once,
and sat down to await results.
Sentimentally she did not much care to see him--his delays
had wearied her, but it was necessary; and with a sigh she
arranged herself picturesquely in the chair; first this way,
then that; next so that the light fell over her head. Next
she flung herself on the couch in the cyma-recta curve which
so became her, and with her arm over her brow looked towards
the door. This, she decided, was the best position after
all, and thus she remained till a man's step was heard on
the stairs. Whereupon Lucetta, forgetting her curve (for
Nature was too strong for Art as yet), jumped up and ran and
hid herself behind one of the window-curtains in a freak of
timidity. In spite of the waning of passion the situation
was an agitating one--she had not seen Henchard since his
(supposed) temporary parting from her in Jersey.
She could hear the servant showing the visitor into the
room, shutting the door upon him, and leaving as if to go
and look for her mistress. Lucetta flung back the curtain
with a nervous greeting. The man before her was not
A conjecture that her visitor might be some other person
had, indeed, flashed through Lucetta's mind when she was on
the point of bursting out; but it was just too late to
He was years younger than the Mayor of Casterbridge; fair,
fresh, and slenderly handsome. He wore genteel cloth
leggings with white buttons, polished boots with infinite
lace holes, light cord breeches under a black velveteen coat
and waistcoat; and he had a silver-topped switch in his
hand. Lucetta blushed, and said with a curious mixture of
pout and laugh on her face--"O, I've made a mistake!"
The visitor, on the contrary, did not laugh half a wrinkle.
"But I'm very sorry!" he said, in deprecating tones. "I
came and I inquired for Miss Henchard, and they showed me up
here, and in no case would I have caught ye so unmannerly if
I had known!"
"I was the unmannerly one," she said.
"But is it that I have come to the wrong house, madam?" said
Mr. Farfrae, blinking a little in his bewilderment and
nervously tapping his legging with his switch.
"O no, sir,--sit down. You must come and sit down now you
are here," replied Lucetta kindly, to relieve his
embarrassment. "Miss Henchard will be here directly."
Now this was not strictly true; but that something about the
young man--that hyperborean crispness, stringency, and
charm, as of a well-braced musical instrument, which had
awakened the interest of Henchard, and of Elizabeth-Jane and
of the Three Mariners' jovial crew, at sight, made his
unexpected presence here attractive to Lucetta. He
hesitated, looked at the chair, thought there was no danger
in it (though there was), and sat down.
Farfrae's sudden entry was simply the result of Henchard's
permission to him to see Elizabeth if he were minded to woo
her. At first he had taken no notice of Henchard's brusque
letter; but an exceptionally fortunate business transaction
put him on good terms with everybody, and revealed to him
that he could undeniably marry if he chose. Then who so
pleasing, thrifty, and satisfactory in every way as
Elizabeth-Jane? Apart from her personal recommendations a
reconciliation with his former friend Henchard would, in the
natural course of things, flow from such a union. He
therefore forgave the Mayor his curtness; and this morning
on his way to the fair he had called at her house, where he
learnt that she was staying at Miss Templeman's. A little
stimulated at not finding her ready and waiting--so fanciful
are men!--he hastened on to High-Place Hall to encounter no
Elizabeth but its mistress herself.
"The fair to-day seems a large one," she said when, by
natural deviation, their eyes sought the busy scene without.
"Your numerous fairs and markets keep me interested. How
many things I think of while I watch from here!"
He seemed in doubt how to answer, and the babble without
reached them as they sat--voices as of wavelets on a looping
sea, one ever and anon rising above the rest. "Do you look
out often?" he asked.
"Yes--very often."
"Do you look for any one you know?"
Why should she have answered as she did?
"I look as at a picture merely. But," she went on, turning
pleasantly to him, "I may do so now--I may look for you.
You are always there, are you not? Ah--I don't mean it
seriously! But it is amusing to look for somebody one knows
in a crowd, even if one does not want him. It takes off the
terrible oppressiveness of being surrounded by a throng, and
having no point of junction with it through a single
"Ay! Maybe you'll be very lonely, ma'am?"
"Nobody knows how lonely."
"But you are rich, they say?"
"If so, I don't know how to enjoy my riches. I came to
Casterbridge thinking I should like to live here. But I
wonder if I shall."
"Where did ye come from, ma'am?"
"The neighbourhood of Bath."
"And I from near Edinboro'," he murmured. "It's better to
stay at home, and that's true; but a man must live where his
money is made. It is a great pity, but it's always so! Yet
I've done very well this year. O yes," he went on with
ingenuous enthusiasm. "You see that man with the drab
kerseymere coat? I bought largely of him in the autumn when
wheat was down, and then afterwards when it rose a little I
sold off all I had! It brought only a small profit to me;
while the farmers kept theirs, expecting higher figures--
yes, though the rats were gnawing the ricks hollow. Just
when I sold the markets went lower, and I bought up the corn
of those who had been holding back at less price than my
first purchases. And then," cried Farfrae impetuously, his
face alight, "I sold it a few weeks after, when it happened
to go up again! And so, by contenting mysel' with small
profits frequently repeated, I soon made five hundred
pounds--yes!"--(bringing down his hand upon the table, and
quite forgetting where he was)--"while the others by keeping
theirs in hand made nothing at all!"
Lucetta regarded him with a critical interest. He was quite
a new type of person to her. At last his eye fell upon the
lady's and their glances met.
"Ay, now, I'm wearying you!" he exclaimed.
She said, "No, indeed," colouring a shade.
"What then?"
"Quite otherwise. You are most interesting."
It was now Farfrae who showed the modest pink.
"I mean all you Scotchmen," she added in hasty correction.
"So free from Southern extremes. We common people are all
one way or the other--warm or cold, passionate or frigid.
You have both temperatures going on in you at the same
"But how do you mean that? Ye were best to explain clearly,
"You are animated--then you are thinking of getting on. You
are sad the next moment--then you are thinking of Scotland
and friends."
"Yes. I think of home sometimes!" he said simply.
"So do I--as far as I can. But it was an old house where I
was born, and they pulled it down for improvements, so I
seem hardly to have any home to think of now."
Lucetta did not add, as she might have done, that the house
was in St. Helier, and not in Bath.
"But the mountains, and the mists and the rocks, they are
there! And don't they seem like home?"
She shook her head.
"They do to me--they do to me," he murmured. And his mind
could be seen flying away northwards. Whether its origin
were national or personal, it was quite true what Lucetta
had said, that the curious double strands in Farfrae's
thread of life--the commercial and the romantic--were very
distinct at times. Like the colours in a variegated cord
those contrasts could be seen intertwisted, yet not
"You are wishing you were back again," she said.
"Ah, no, ma'am," said Farfrae, suddenly recalling himself.
The fair without the windows was now raging thick and loud.
It was the chief hiring fair of the year, and differed quite
from the market of a few days earlier. In substance it was
a whitey-brown crowd flecked with white--this being the body
of labourers waiting for places. The long bonnets of the
women, like waggon-tilts, their cotton gowns and checked
shawls, mixed with the carters' smockfrocks; for they, too,
entered into the hiring. Among the rest, at the corner of
the pavement, stood an old shepherd, who attracted the eyes
of Lucetta and Farfrae by his stillness. He was evidently a
chastened man. The battle of life had been a sharp one with
him, for, to begin with, he was a man of small frame. He
was now so bowed by hard work and years that, approaching
from behind, a person could hardly see his head. He had
planted the stem of his crook in the gutter and was resting
upon the bow, which was polished to silver brightness by the
long friction of his hands. He had quite forgotten where he
was, and what he had come for, his eyes being bent on the
ground. A little way off negotiations were proceeding which
had reference to him; but he did not hear them, and there
seemed to be passing through his mind pleasant visions of
the hiring successes of his prime, when his skill laid open
to him any farm for the asking.
The negotiations were between a farmer from a distant county
and the old man's son. In these there was a difficulty.
The farmer would not take the crust without the crumb of the
bargain, in other words, the old man without the younger;
and the son had a sweetheart on his present farm, who stood
by, waiting the issue with pale lips.
"I'm sorry to leave ye, Nelly," said the young man with
emotion. "But, you see, I can't starve father, and he's out
o' work at Lady-day. 'Tis only thirty-five mile."
The girl's lips quivered. "Thirty-five mile!" she murmured.
"Ah! 'tis enough! I shall never see 'ee again!" It was,
indeed, a hopeless length of traction for Dan Cupid's
magnet; for young men were young men at Casterbridge as
"O! no, no--I never shall," she insisted, when he pressed
her hand; and she turned her face to Lucetta's wall to hide
her weeping. The farmer said he would give the young man
half-an-hour for his answer, and went away, leaving the
group sorrowing.
Lucetta's eyes, full of tears, met Farfrae's. His, too, to
her surprise, were moist at the scene.
"It is very hard," she said with strong feelings. "Lovers
ought not to be parted like that! O, if I had my wish, I'd
let people live and love at their pleasure!"
"Maybe I can manage that they'll not be parted," said
Farfrae. "I want a young carter; and perhaps I'll take the
old man too--yes; he'll not be very expensive, and doubtless
he will answer my pairrpose somehow."
"O, you are so good!" she cried, delighted. "Go and tell
them, and let me know if you have succeeded!"
Farfrae went out, and she saw him speak to the group. The
eyes of all brightened; the bargain was soon struck.
Farfrae returned to her immediately it was concluded.
"It is kind-hearted of you, indeed," said Lucetta. "For my
part, I have resolved that all my servants shall have lovers
if they want them! Do make the same resolve!"
Farfrae looked more serious, waving his head a half turn.
"I must be a little stricter than that," he said.
"You are a--a thriving woman; and I am a struggling hay-andcorn
"I am a very ambitious woman."
"Ah, well, I cannet explain. I don't know how to talk to
ladies, ambitious or no; and that's true," said Donald with
grave regret. "I try to be civil to a' folk--no more!"
"I see you are as you say," replied she, sensibly getting
the upper hand in these exchanges of sentiment. Under this
revelation of insight Farfrae again looked out of the window
into the thick of the fair.
Two farmers met and shook hands, and being quite near the
window their remarks could be heard as others' had been.
"Have you seen young Mr. Farfrae this morning?" asked one.
"He promised to meet me here at the stroke of twelve; but
I've gone athwart and about the fair half-a-dozen times, and
never a sign of him: though he's mostly a man to his word."
"I quite forgot the engagement," murmured Farfrae.
"Now you must go," said she; "must you not?"
"Yes," he replied. But he still remained.
"You had better go," she urged. "You will lose a customer.
"Now, Miss Templeman, you will make me angry," exclaimed
"Then suppose you don't go; but stay a little longer?"
He looked anxiously at the farmer who was seeking him and
who just then ominously walked across to where Henchard was
standing, and he looked into the room and at her. "I like
staying; but I fear I must go!" he said. "Business ought
not to be neglected, ought it?
"Not for a single minute."
"It's true. I'll come another time--if I may, ma'am?"
"Certainly," she said. "What has happened to us to-day is
very curious."
"Something to think over when we are alone, it's like to
"Oh, I don't know that. It is commonplace after all."
"No, I'll not say that. O no!"
"Well, whatever it has been, it is now over; and the market
calls you to be gone."
"Yes, yes. Market--business! I wish there were no business
in the warrld."
Lucetta almost laughed--she would quite have laughed--but
that there was a little emotion going in her at the time.
"How you change!" she said. "You should not change like
"I have never wished such things before," said the
Scotchman, with a simple, shamed, apologetic look for his
weakness. "It is only since coming here and seeing you!"
"If that's the case, you had better not look at me any
longer. Dear me, I feel I have quite demoralized you!"
"But look or look not, I will see you in my thoughts. Well,
I'll go--thank you for the pleasure of this visit."
"Thank you for staying."
"Maybe I'll get into my market-mind when I've been out a few
minutes," he murmured. "But I don't know--I don't know!"
As he went she said eagerly, "You may hear them speak of me
in Casterbridge as time goes on. If they tell you I'm a
coquette, which some may, because of the incidents of my
life, don't believe it, for I am not."
"I swear I will not!" he said fervidly.
Thus the two. She had enkindled the young man's enthusiasm
till he was quite brimming with sentiment; while he from
merely affording her a new form of idleness, had gone on to
wake her serious solicitude. Why was this? They could not
have told.
Lucetta as a young girl would hardly have looked at a
tradesman. But her ups and downs, capped by her
indiscretions with Henchard had made her uncritical as to
station. In her poverty she had met with repulse from the
society to which she had belonged, and she had no great zest
for renewing an attempt upon it now. Her heart longed for
some ark into which it could fly and be at rest. Rough or
smooth she did not care so long as it was warm.
Farfrae was shown out, it having entirely escaped him that
he had called to see Elizabeth. Lucetta at the window
watched him threading the maze of farmers and farmers' men.
She could see by his gait that he was conscious of her eyes,
and her heart went out to him for his modesty--pleaded with
her sense of his unfitness that he might be allowed to come
again. He entered the market-house, and she could see him
no more.
Three minutes later, when she had left the window, knocks,
not of multitude but of strength, sounded through the house,
and the waiting-maid tripped up.
"The Mayor," she said.
Lucetta had reclined herself, and she was looking dreamily
through her fingers. She did not answer at once, and the
maid repeated the information with the addition, "And he's
afraid he hasn't much time to spare, he says."
"Oh! Then tell him that as I have a headache I won't detain
him to-day."
The message was taken down, and she heard the door close.
Lucetta had come to Casterbridge to quicken Henchard's
feelings with regard to her. She had quickened them, and
now she was indifferent to the achievement.
Her morning view of Elizabeth-Jane as a disturbing element
changed, and she no longer felt strongly the necessity of
getting rid of the girl for her stepfather's sake. When the
young woman came in, sweetly unconscious of the turn in the
tide, Lucetta went up to her, and said quite sincerely--
"I'm so glad you've come. You'll live with me a long time,
won't you?"
Elizabeth as a watch-dog to keep her father off--what a new
idea. Yet it was not unpleasing. Henchard had neglected
her all these days, after compromising her indescribably in
the past. The least he could have done when he found
himself free, and herself affluent, would have been to
respond heartily and promptly to her invitation.
Her emotions rose, fell, undulated, filled her with wild
surmise at their suddenness; and so passed Lucetta's
experiences of that day.
Poor Elizabeth-Jane, little thinking what her malignant star
had done to blast the budding attentions she had won from
Donald Farfrae, was glad to hear Lucetta's words about
For in addition to Lucetta's house being a home, that raking
view of the market-place which it afforded had as much
attraction for her as for Lucetta. The carrefour was
like the regulation Open Place in spectacular dramas, where
the incidents that occur always happen to bear on the lives
of the adjoining residents. Farmers, merchants, dairymen,
quacks, hawkers, appeared there from week to week, and
disappeared as the afternoon wasted away. It was the node
of all orbits.
From Saturday to Saturday was as from day to day with the
two young women now. In an emotional sense they did not
live at all during the intervals. Wherever they might go
wandering on other days, on market-day they were sure to be
at home. Both stole sly glances out of the window at
Farfrae's shoulders and poll. His face they seldom saw,
for, either through shyness, or not to disturb his
mercantile mood, he avoided looking towards their quarters.
Thus things went on, till a certain market-morning brought a
new sensation. Elizabeth and Lucetta were sitting at
breakfast when a parcel containing two dresses arrived for
the latter from London. She called Elizabeth from her
breakfast, and entering her friend's bedroom Elizabeth saw
the gowns spread out on the bed, one of a deep cherry
colour, the other lighter--a glove lying at the end of each
sleeve, a bonnet at the top of each neck, and parasols
across the gloves, Lucetta standing beside the suggested
human figure in an attitude of contemplation.
"I wouldn't think so hard about it," said Elizabeth, marking
the intensity with which Lucetta was alternating the
question whether this or that would suit best.
"But settling upon new clothes is so trying," said Lucetta.
"You are that person" (pointing to one of the arrangements),
"or you are THAT totally different person" (pointing to
the other), "for the whole of the coming spring and one of
the two, you don't know which, may turn out to be very
It was finally decided by Miss Templeman that she would be
the cherry-coloured person at all hazards. The dress was
pronounced to be a fit, and Lucetta walked with it into the
front room, Elizabeth following her.
The morning was exceptionally bright for the time of year.
The sun fell so flat on the houses and pavement opposite
Lucetta's residence that they poured their brightness into
her rooms. Suddenly, after a rumbling of wheels, there were
added to this steady light a fantastic series of circling
irradiations upon the ceiling, and the companions turned to
the window. Immediately opposite a vehicle of strange
description had come to a standstill, as if it had been
placed there for exhibition.
It was the new-fashioned agricultural implement called a
horse-drill, till then unknown, in its modern shape, in this
part of the country, where the venerable seed-lip was still
used for sowing as in the days of the Heptarchy. Its
arrival created about as much sensation in the corn-market
as a flying machine would create at Charing Cross. The
farmers crowded round it, women drew near it, children crept
under and into it. The machine was painted in bright hues
of green, yellow, and red, and it resembled as a whole a
compound of hornet, grasshopper, and shrimp, magnified
enormously. Or it might have been likened to an upright
musical instrument with the front gone. That was how it
struck Lucetta. "Why, it is a sort of agricultural piano,"
she said.
"It has something to do with corn," said Elizabeth.
"I wonder who thought of introducing it here?"
Donald Farfrae was in the minds of both as the innovator,
for though not a farmer he was closely leagued with farming
operations. And as if in response to their thought he came
up at that moment, looked at the machine, walked round it,
and handled it as if he knew something about its make. The
two watchers had inwardly started at his coming, and
Elizabeth left the window, went to the back of the room, and
stood as if absorbed in the panelling of the wall. She
hardly knew that she had done this till Lucetta, animated by
the conjunction of her new attire with the sight of Farfrae,
spoke out: "Let us go and look at the instrument, whatever
it is."
Elizabeth-Jane's bonnet and shawl were pitchforked on in a
moment, and they went out. Among all the agriculturists
gathered round the only appropriate possessor of the new
machine seemed to be Lucetta, because she alone rivalled it
in colour.
They examined it curiously; observing the rows of trumpetshaped
tubes one within the other, the little scoops, like
revolving salt-spoons, which tossed the seed into the upper
ends of the tubes that conducted it to the ground; till
somebody said, "Good morning, Elizabeth-Jane." She looked
up, and there was her stepfather.
His greeting had been somewhat dry and thunderous, and
Elizabeth-Jane, embarrassed out of her equanimity, stammered
at random, "This is the lady I live with, father--Miss
Henchard put his hand to his hat, which he brought down with
a great wave till it met his body at the knee. Miss
Templeman bowed. "I am happy to become acquainted with you,
Mr. Henchard," she said. "This is a curious machine."
"Yes," Henchard replied; and he proceeded to explain it, and
still more forcibly to ridicule it.
"Who brought it here?" said Lucetta.
"Oh, don't ask me, ma'am!" said Henchard. "The thing--why
'tis impossible it should act. 'Twas brought here by one of
our machinists on the recommendation of a jumped-up
jackanapes of a fellow who thinks----" His eye caught
Elizabeth-Jane's imploring face, and he stopped, probably
thinking that the suit might be progressing.
He turned to go away. Then something seemed to occur which
his stepdaughter fancied must really be a hallucination of
hers. A murmur apparently came from Henchard's lips in
which she detected the words, "You refused to see me!"
reproachfully addressed to Lucetta. She could not believe
that they had been uttered by her stepfather; unless,
indeed, they might have been spoken to one of the yellowgaitered
farmers near them. Yet Lucetta seemed silent, and
then all thought of the incident was dissipated by the
humming of a song, which sounded as though from the interior
of the machine. Henchard had by this time vanished into the
market-house, and both the women glanced towards the corndrill.
They could see behind it the bent back of a man who
was pushing his head into the internal works to master their
simple secrets. The hummed song went on--
"'Tw--s on a s--m--r aftern--n,
A wee be--re the s--n w--nt d--n,
When Kitty wi' a braw n--w g--wn
C--me ow're the h--lls to Gowrie."
Elizabeth-Jane had apprehended the singer in a moment, and
looked guilty of she did not know what. Lucetta next
recognized him, and more mistress of herself said archly,
"The 'Lass of Gowrie' from inside of a seed-drill--what a
Satisfied at last with his investigation the young man stood
upright, and met their eyes across the summit.
"We are looking at the wonderful new drill," Miss Templeman
said. "But practically it is a stupid thing--is it not?"
she added, on the strength of Henchard's information.
"Stupid? O no!" said Farfrae gravely. "It will
revolutionize sowing heerabout! No more sowers flinging
their seed about broadcast, so that some falls by the
wayside and some among thorns, and all that. Each grain
will go straight to its intended place, and nowhere else
"Then the romance of the sower is gone for good," observed
Elizabeth-Jane, who felt herself at one with Farfrae in
Bible-reading at least. "'He that observeth the wind shall
not sow,' so the Preacher said; but his words will not be to
the point any more. How things change!"
"Ay; ay....It must be so!" Donald admitted, his gaze fixing
itself on a blank point far away. "But the machines are
already very common in the East and North of England," he
added apologetically.
Lucetta seemed to be outside this train of sentiment, her
acquaintance with the Scriptures being somewhat limited.
"Is the machine yours?" she asked of Farfrae.
"O no, madam," said he, becoming embarrassed and deferential
at the sound of her voice, though with Elizabeth Jane he was
quite at his ease. No, no--I merely recommended that it
should be got."
In the silence which followed Farfrae appeared only
conscious of her; to have passed from perception of
Elizabeth into a brighter sphere of existence than she
appertained to. Lucetta, discerning that he was much mixed
that day, partly in his mercantile mood and partly in his
romantic one, said gaily to him--
"Well, don't forsake the machine for us," and went indoors
with her companion.
The latter felt that she had been in the way, though why was
unaccountable to her. Lucetta explained the matter somewhat
by saying when they were again in the sitting-room--
"I had occasion to speak to Mr. Farfrae the other day, and
so I knew him this morning."
Lucetta was very kind towards Elizabeth that day. Together
they saw the market thicken, and in course of time thin away
with the slow decline of the sun towards the upper end of
town, its rays taking the street endways and enfilading the
long thoroughfare from top to bottom. The gigs and vans
disappeared one by one till there was not a vehicle in the
street. The time of the riding world was over the
pedestrian world held sway. Field labourers and their wives
and children trooped in from the villages for their weekly
shopping, and instead of a rattle of wheels and a tramp of
horses ruling the sound as earlier, there was nothing but
the shuffle of many feet. All the implements were gone; all
the farmers; all the moneyed class. The character of the
town's trading had changed from bulk to multiplicity and
pence were handled now as pounds had been handled earlier in
the day.
Lucetta and Elizabeth looked out upon this, for though it
was night and the street lamps were lighted, they had kept
their shutters unclosed. In the faint blink of the fire
they spoke more freely.
"Your father was distant with you," said Lucetta.
"Yes." And having forgotten the momentary mystery of
Henchard's seeming speech to Lucetta she continued, "It is
because he does not think I am respectable. I have tried to
be so more than you can imagine, but in vain! My mother's
separation from my father was unfortunate for me. You don't
know what it is to have shadows like that upon your life."
Lucetta seemed to wince. "I do not--of that kind
precisely," she said, "but you may feel a--sense of
disgrace--shame--in other ways."
"Have you ever had any such feeling?" said the younger
"O no," said Lucetta quickly. "I was thinking of--what
happens sometimes when women get themselves in strange
positions in the eyes of the world from no fault of their
"It must make them very unhappy afterwards."
"It makes them anxious; for might not other women despise
"Not altogether despise them. Yet not quite like or respect
Lucetta winced again. Her past was by no means secure from
investigation, even in Casterbridge. For one thing Henchard
had never returned to her the cloud of letters she had
written and sent him in her first excitement. Possibly they
were destroyed; but she could have wished that they had
never been written.
The rencounter with Farfrae and his bearings towards Lucetta
had made the reflective Elizabeth more observant of her
brilliant and amiable companion. A few days afterwards,
when her eyes met Lucetta's as the latter was going out, she
somehow knew that Miss Templeman was nourishing a hope of
seeing the attractive Scotchman. The fact was printed large
all over Lucetta's cheeks and eyes to any one who could read
her as Elizabeth-Jane was beginning to do. Lucetta passed
on and closed the street door.
A seer's spirit took possession of Elizabeth, impelling her
to sit down by the fire and divine events so surely from
data already her own that they could be held as witnessed.
She followed Lucetta thus mentally--saw her encounter Donald
somewhere as if by chance--saw him wear his special look
when meeting women, with an added intensity because this one
was Lucetta. She depicted his impassioned manner; beheld
the indecision of both between their lothness to separate
and their desire not to be observed; depicted their shaking
of hands; how they probably parted with frigidity in their
general contour and movements, only in the smaller features
showing the spark of passion, thus invisible to all but
themselves. This discerning silent witch had not done
thinking of these things when Lucetta came noiselessly
behind her and made her start.
It was all true as she had pictured--she could have sworn
it. Lucetta had a heightened luminousness in her eye over
and above the advanced colour of her cheeks.
"You've seen Mr. Farfrae," said Elizabeth demurely.
"Yes," said Lucetta. "How did you know?"
She knelt down on the hearth and took her friend's hands
excitedly in her own. But after all she did not say when or
how she had seen him or what he had said.
That night she became restless; in the morning she was
feverish; and at breakfast-time she told her companion that
she had something on her mind--something which concerned a
person in whom she was interested much. Elizabeth was
earnest to listen and sympathize.
"This person--a lady--once admired a man much--very much,"
she said tentatively.
"Ah," said Elizabeth-Jane.
"They were intimate--rather. He did not think so deeply of
her as she did of him. But in an impulsive moment, purely
out of reparation, he proposed to make her his wife. She
agreed. But there was an unsuspected hitch in the
proceedings; though she had been so far compromised with him
that she felt she could never belong to another man, as a
pure matter of conscience, even if she should wish to.
After that they were much apart, heard nothing of each other
for a long time, and she felt her life quite closed up for
"Ah--poor girl!"
"She suffered much on account of him; though I should add
that he could not altogether be blamed for what had
happened. At last the obstacle which separated them was
providentially removed; and he came to marry her."
"How delightful!"
"But in the interval she--my poor friend--had seen a man,
she liked better than him. Now comes the point: Could she
in honour dismiss the first?"
"A new man she liked better--that's bad!"
"Yes," said Lucetta, looking pained at a boy who was
swinging the town pump-handle. "It is bad! Though you must
remember that she was forced into an equivocal position with
the first man by an accident--that he was not so well
educated or refined as the second, and that she had
discovered some qualities in the first that rendered him
less desirable as a husband than she had at first thought
him to be."
"I cannot answer," said Elizabeth-Jane thoughtfully. "It is
so difficult. It wants a Pope to settle that!"
"You prefer not to perhaps?" Lucetta showed in her appealing
tone how much she leant on Elizabeth's judgment.
"Yes, Miss Templeman," admitted Elizabeth. "I would rather
not say."
Nevertheless, Lucetta seemed relieved by the simple fact of
having opened out the situation a little, and was slowly
convalescent of her headache. "Bring me a looking-glass.
How do I appear to people?" she said languidly.
"Well--a little worn," answered Elizabeth, eyeing her as a
critic eyes a doubtful painting; fetching the glass she
enabled Lucetta to survey herself in it, which Lucetta
anxiously did.
"I wonder if I wear well, as times go!" she observed after a
"Where am I worst?"
"Under your eyes--I notice a little brownness there."
"Yes. That is my worst place, I know. How many years more
do you think I shall last before I get hopelessly plain?"
There was something curious in the way in which Elizabeth,
though the younger, had come to play the part of experienced
sage in these discussions. "It may be five years," she said
judicially. "Or, with a quiet life, as many as ten. With
no love you might calculate on ten."
Lucetta seemed to reflect on this as on an unalterable,
impartial verdict. She told Elizabeth-Jane no more of the
past attachment she had roughly adumbrated as the
experiences of a third person; and Elizabeth, who in spite
of her philosophy was very tender-hearted, sighed that night
in bed at the thought that her pretty, rich Lucetta did not
treat her to the full confidence of names and dates in her
confessions. For by the "she" of Lucetta's story Elizabeth
had not been beguiled.
The next phase of the supersession of Henchard in Lucetta's
heart was an experiment in calling on her performed by
Farfrae with some apparent trepidation. Conventionally
speaking he conversed with both Miss Templeman and her
companion; but in fact it was rather that Elizabeth sat
invisible in the room. Donald appeared not to see her at
all, and answered her wise little remarks with curtly
indifferent monosyllables, his looks and faculties hanging
on the woman who could boast of a more Protean variety in
her phases, moods, opinions, and also principles, than could
Elizabeth. Lucetta had persisted in dragging her into the
circle; but she had remained like an awkward third point
which that circle would not touch.
Susan Henchard's daughter bore up against the frosty ache of
the treatment, as she had borne up under worse things, and
contrived as soon as possible to get out of the inharmonious
room without being missed. The Scotchman seemed hardly the
same Farfrae who had danced with her and walked with her in
a delicate poise between love and friendship--that period in
the history of a love when alone it can be said to be
unalloyed with pain.
She stoically looked from her bedroom window, and
contemplated her fate as if it were written on the top of
the church-tower hard by. "Yes," she said at last, bringing
down her palm upon the sill with a pat: "HE is the
second man of that story she told me!"
All this time Henchard's smouldering sentiments towards
Lucetta had been fanned into higher and higher inflammation
by the circumstances of the case. He was discovering that
the young woman for whom he once felt a pitying warmth which
had been almost chilled out of him by reflection, was, when
now qualified with a slight inaccessibility and a more
matured beauty, the very being to make him satisfied with
life. Day after day proved to him, by her silence, that it
was no use to think of bringing her round by holding aloof;
so he gave in, and called upon her again, Elizabeth-Jane
being absent.
He crossed the room to her with a heavy tread of some
awkwardness, his strong, warm gaze upon her--like the sun
beside the moon in comparison with Farfrae's modest look--
and with something of a hail-fellow bearing, as, indeed, was
not unnatural. But she seemed so transubstantiated by her
change of position, and held out her hand to him in such
cool friendship, that he became deferential, and sat down
with a perceptible loss of power. He understood but little
of fashion in dress, yet enough to feel himself inadequate
in appearance beside her whom he had hitherto been dreaming
of as almost his property. She said something very polite
about his being good enough to call. This caused him to
recover balance. He looked her oddly in the face, losing
his awe.
"Why, of course I have called, Lucetta," he said. "What
does that nonsense mean? You know I couldn't have helped
myself if I had wished--that is, if I had any kindness at
all. I've called to say that I am ready, as soon as custom
will permit, to give you my name in return for your devotion
and what you lost by it in thinking too little of yourself
and too much of me; to say that you can fix the day or
month, with my full consent, whenever in your opinion it
would be seemly: you know more of these things than I."
"It is full early yet," she said evasively.
"Yes, yes; I suppose it is. But you know, Lucetta, I felt
directly my poor ill-used Susan died, and when I could not
bear the idea of marrying again, that after what had
happened between us it was my duty not to let any
unnecessary delay occur before putting things to rights.
Still, I wouldn't call in a hurry, because--well, you can
guess how this money you've come into made me feel." His
voice slowly fell; he was conscious that in this room his
accents and manner wore a roughness not observable in the
street. He looked about the room at the novel hangings and
ingenious furniture with which she had surrounded herself.
"Upon my life I didn't know such furniture as this could be
bought in Casterbridge," he said.
"Nor can it be " said she. "Nor will it till fifty years
more of civilization have passed over the town. It took a
waggon and four horses to get it here."
"H'm. It looks as if you were living on capital."
"O no, I am not."
"So much the better. But the fact is, your setting up like
this makes my beaming towards you rather awkward."
An answer was not really needed, and he did not furnish one.
"Well," he went on, "there's nobody in the world I would
have wished to see enter into this wealth before you,
Lucetta, and nobody, I am sure, who will become it more." He
turned to her with congratulatory admiration so fervid that
she shrank somewhat, notwithstanding that she knew him so
"I am greatly obliged to you for all that," said she, rather
with an air of speaking ritual. The stint of reciprocal
feeling was perceived, and Henchard showed chagrin at once--
nobody was more quick to show that than he.
"You may be obliged or not for't. Though the things I say
may not have the polish of what you've lately learnt to
expect for the first time in your life, they are real, my
lady Lucetta."
"That's rather a rude way of speaking to me," pouted
Lucetta, with stormy eyes.
"Not at all!" replied Henchard hotly. "But there, there, I
don't wish to quarrel with 'ee. I come with an honest
proposal for silencing your Jersey enemies, and you ought to
be thankful."
"How can you speak so!" she answered, firing quickly.
"Knowing that my only crime was the indulging in a foolish
girl's passion for you with too little regard for
correctness, and that I was what I call innocent all the
time they called me guilty, you ought not to be so cutting!
I suffered enough at that worrying time, when you wrote to
tell me of your wife's return and my consequent dismissal,
and if I am a little independent now, surely the privilege
is due to me!"
"Yes, it is," he said. "But it is not by what is, in this
life, but by what appears, that you are judged; and I
therefore think you ought to accept me--for your own good
name's sake. What is known in your native Jersey may get
known here."
"How you keep on about Jersey! I am English!"
"Yes, yes. Well, what do you say to my proposal?"
For the first time in their acquaintance Lucetta had the
move; and yet she was backward. "For the present let things
be," she said with some embarrassment. "Treat me as an
acquaintance, and I'll treat you as one. Time will--" She
stopped; and he said nothing to fill the gap for awhile,
there being no pressure of half acquaintance to drive them
into speech if they were not minded for it.
"That's the way the wind blows, is it?" he said at last
grimly, nodding an affirmative to his own thoughts.
A yellow flood of reflected sunlight filled the room for a
few instants. It was produced by the passing of a load of
newly trussed hay from the country, in a waggon marked with
Farfrae's name. Beside it rode Farfrae himself on horseback.
Lucetta's face became--as a woman's face becomes when
the man she loves rises upon her gaze like an apparition.
A turn of the eye by Henchard, a glance from the window, and
the secret of her inaccessibility would have been revealed.
But Henchard in estimating her tone was looking down so
plumb-straight that he did not note the warm consciousness
upon Lucetta's face.
"I shouldn't have thought it--I shouldn't have thought it of
women!" he said emphatically by-and-by, rising and shaking
himself into activity; while Lucetta was so anxious to
divert him from any suspicion of the truth that she asked
him to be in no hurry. Bringing him some apples she
insisted upon paring one for him.
He would not take it. "No, no; such is not for me," he said
drily, and moved to the door. At going out he turned his
eye upon her.
"You came to live in Casterbridge entirely on my account,"
he said. "Yet now you are here you won't have anything to
say to my offer!"
He had hardly gone down the staircase when she dropped upon
the sofa and jumped up again in a fit of desperation. "I
WILL love him!" she cried passionately; "as for HIM--
he's hot-tempered and stern, and it would be madness to bind
myself to him knowing that. I won't be a slave to the past--
I'll love where I choose!"
Yet having decided to break away from Henchard one might
have supposed her capable of aiming higher than Farfrae.
But Lucetta reasoned nothing: she feared hard words from the
people with whom she had been earlier associated; she had no
relatives left; and with native lightness of heart took
kindly to what fate offered.
Elizabeth-Jane, surveying the position of Lucetta between
her two lovers from the crystalline sphere of a
straightforward mind, did not fail to perceive that her
father, as she called him, and Donald Farfrae became more
desperately enamoured of her friend every day. On Farfrae's
side it was the unforced passion of youth. On Henchard's
the artificially stimulated coveting of maturer age.
The pain she experienced from the almost absolute
obliviousness to her existence that was shown by the pair of
them became at times half dissipated by her sense of its
humourousness. When Lucetta had pricked her finger they
were as deeply concerned as if she were dying; when she
herself had been seriously sick or in danger they uttered a
conventional word of sympathy at the news, and forgot all
about it immediately. But, as regarded Henchard, this
perception of hers also caused her some filial grief; she
could not help asking what she had done to be neglected so,
after the professions of solicitude he had made. As
regarded Farfrae, she thought, after honest reflection, that
it was quite natural. What was she beside Lucetta?--as one
of the "meaner beauties of the night," when the moon had
risen in the skies.
She had learnt the lesson of renunciation, and was as
familiar with the wreck of each day's wishes as with the
diurnal setting of the sun. If her earthly career had
taught her few book philosophies it had at least well
practised her in this. Yet her experience had consisted
less in a series of pure disappointments than in a series of
substitutions. Continually it had happened that what she
had desired had not been granted her, and that what had been
granted her she had not desired. So she viewed with an
approach to equanimity the new cancelled days when Donald
had been her undeclared lover, and wondered what unwishedfor
thing Heaven might send her in place of him.
It chanced that on a fine spring morning Henchard and
Farfrae met in the chestnut-walk which ran along the south
wall of the town. Each had just come out from his early
breakfast, and there was not another soul near. Henchard
was reading a letter from Lucetta, sent in answer to a note
from him, in which she made some excuse for not immediately
granting him a second interview that he had desired.
Donald had no wish to enter into conversation with his
former friend on their present constrained terms; neither
would he pass him in scowling silence. He nodded, and
Henchard did the same. They receded from each other several
paces when a voice cried "Farfrae!" It was Henchard's, who
stood regarding him.
"Do you remember," said Henchard, as if it were the presence
of the thought and not of the man which made him speak, "do
you remember my story of that second woman--who suffered for
her thoughtless intimacy with me?"
"I do," said Farfrae.
"Do you remember my telling 'ee how it all began and how it
"Well, I have offered to marry her now that I can; but she
won't marry me. Now what would you think of her--I put it
to you?"
"Well, ye owe her nothing more now," said Farfrae heartily.
"It is true," said Henchard, and went on.
That he had looked up from a letter to ask his questions
completely shut out from Farfrae's mind all vision of
Lucetta as the culprit. Indeed, her present position was so
different from that of the young woman of Henchard's story
as of itself to be sufficient to blind him absolutely to her
identity. As for Henchard, he was reassured by Farfrae's
words and manner against a suspicion which had crossed his
mind. They were not those of a conscious rival.
Yet that there was rivalry by some one he was firmly
persuaded. He could feel it in the air around Lucetta, see
it in the turn of her pen. There was an antagonistic force
in exercise, so that when he had tried to hang near her he
seemed standing in a refluent current. That it was not
innate caprice he was more and more certain. Her windows
gleamed as if they did not want him; her curtains seem to
hang slily, as if they screened an ousting presence. To
discover whose presence that was--whether really Farfrae's
after all, or another's--he exerted himself to the utmost to
see her again; and at length succeeded.
At the interview, when she offered him tea, he made it a
point to launch a cautious inquiry if she knew Mr. Farfrae.
O yes, she knew him, she declared; she could not help
knowing almost everybody in Casterbridge, living in such a
gazebo over the centre and arena of the town.
"Pleasant young fellow," said Henchard.
"Yes," said Lucetta.
"We both know him," said kind Elizabeth-Jane, to relieve her
companion's divined embarrassment.
There was a knock at the door; literally, three full knocks
and a little one at the end.
"That kind of knock means half-and-half--somebody between
gentle and simple," said the corn-merchant to himself. "I
shouldn't wonder therefore if it is he." In a few seconds
surely enough Donald walked in.
Lucetta was full of little fidgets and flutters, which
increased Henchard's suspicions without affording any
special proof of their correctness. He was well-nigh
ferocious at the sense of the queer situation in which he
stood towards this woman. One who had reproached him for
deserting her when calumniated, who had urged claims upon
his consideration on that account, who had lived waiting for
him, who at the first decent opportunity had come to ask him
to rectify, by making her his, the false position into which
she had placed herself for his sake; such she had been. And
now he sat at her tea-table eager to gain her attention, and
in his amatory rage feeling the other man present to be a
villain, just as any young fool of a lover might feel.
They sat stiffly side by side at the darkening table, like
some Tuscan painting of the two disciples supping at Emmaus.
Lucetta, forming the third and haloed figure, was opposite
them; Elizabeth-Jane, being out of the game, and out of the
group, could observe all from afar, like the evangelist who
had to write it down: that there were long spaces of
taciturnity, when all exterior circumstances were subdued to
the touch of spoons and china, the click of a heel on the
pavement under the window, the passing of a wheelbarrow or
cart, the whistling of the carter, the gush of water into
householders' buckets at the town-pump opposite, the
exchange of greetings among their neighbours, and the rattle
of the yokes by which they carried off their evening supply.
"More bread-and-butter?" said Lucetta to Henchard and
Farfrae equally, holding out between them a plateful of long
slices. Henchard took a slice by one end and Donald by the
other; each feeling certain he was the man meant; neither
let go, and the slice came in two.
"Oh--I am so sorry!" cried Lucetta, with a nervous titter.
Farfrae tried to laugh; but he was too much in love to see
the incident in any but a tragic light.
"How ridiculous of all three of them!" said Elizabeth to
Henchard left the house with a ton of conjecture, though
without a grain of proof, that the counterattraction was
Farfrae; and therefore he would not make up his mind. Yet
to Elizabeth-Jane it was plain as the town-pump that Donald
and Lucetta were incipient lovers. More than once, in spite
of her care, Lucetta had been unable to restrain her glance
from flitting across into Farfrae's eyes like a bird to its
nest. But Henchard was constructed upon too large a scale
to discern such minutiae as these by an evening light, which
to him were as the notes of an insect that lie above the
compass of the human ear.
But he was disturbed. And the sense of occult rivalry in
suitorship was so much superadded to the palpable rivalry of
their business lives. To the coarse materiality of that
rivalry it added an inflaming soul.
The thus vitalized antagonism took the form of action by
Henchard sending for Jopp, the manager originally displaced
by Farfrae's arrival. Henchard had frequently met this man
about the streets, observed that his clothing spoke of
neediness, heard that he lived in Mixen Lane--a back slum of
the town, the pis aller of Casterbridge domiciliation--
itself almost a proof that a man had reached a stage when he
would not stick at trifles.
Jopp came after dark, by the gates of the storeyard, and
felt his way through the hay and straw to the office where
Henchard sat in solitude awaiting him.
"I am again out of a foreman," said the corn-factor. "Are
you in a place?"
"Not so much as a beggar's, sir."
"How much do you ask?"
Jopp named his price, which was very moderate.
"When can you come?"
"At this hour and moment, sir," said Jopp, who, standing
hands-pocketed at the street corner till the sun had faded
the shoulders of his coat to scarecrow green, had regularly
watched Henchard in the market-place, measured him, and
learnt him, by virtue of the power which the still man has
in his stillness of knowing the busy one better than he
knows himself. Jopp too, had had a convenient experience;
he was the only one in Casterbridge besides Henchard and the
close-lipped Elizabeth who knew that Lucetta came truly from
Jersey, and but proximately from Bath. "I know Jersey too,
sir," he said. "Was living there when you used to do
business that way. O yes--have often seen ye there."
"Indeed! Very good. Then the thing is settled. The
testimonials you showed me when you first tried for't are
That characters deteriorated in time of need possibly did
not occur to, Henchard. Jopp said, "Thank you," and stood
more firmly, in the consciousness that at last he officially
belonged to that spot.
"Now," said Henchard, digging his strong eyes into Jopp's
face, "one thing is necessary to me, as the biggest cornand-
hay dealer in these parts. The Scotchman, who's taking
the town trade so bold into his hands, must be cut out.
D'ye hear? We two can't live side by side--that's clear and
"I've seen it all," said Jopp.
"By fair competition I mean, of course," Henchard continued.
"But as hard, keen, and unflinching as fair--rather more so.
By such a desperate bid against him for the farmers' custom
as will grind him into the ground--starve him out. I've
capital, mind ye, and I can do it."
"I'm all that way of thinking," said the new foreman.
Jopp's dislike of Farfrae as the man who had once ursurped
his place, while it made him a willing tool, made him, at
the same time, commercially as unsafe a colleague as
Henchard could have chosen.
"I sometimes think," he added, "that he must have some glass
that he sees next year in. He has such a knack of making
everything bring him fortune."
"He's deep beyond all honest men's discerning, but we must
make him shallower. We'll undersell him, and over-buy him,
and so snuff him out."
They then entered into specific details of the process by
which this would be accomplished, and parted at a late hour.
Elizabeth-Jane heard by accident that Jopp had been engaged
by her stepfather. She was so fully convinced that he was
not the right man for the place that, at the risk of making
Henchard angry, she expressed her apprehension to him when
they met. But it was done to no purpose. Henchard shut up
her argument with a sharp rebuff.
The season's weather seemed to favour their scheme. The
time was in the years immediately before foreign competition
had revolutionized the trade in grain; when still, as from
the earliest ages, the wheat quotations from month to month
depended entirely upon the home harvest. A bad harvest, or
the prospect of one, would double the price of corn in a few
weeks; and the promise of a good yield would lower it as
rapidly. Prices were like the roads of the period, steep in
gradient, reflecting in their phases the local conditions,
without engineering, levellings, or averages.
The farmer's income was ruled by the wheat-crop within his
own horizon, and the wheat-crop by the weather. Thus in
person, he became a sort of flesh-barometer, with feelers
always directed to the sky and wind around him. The local
atmosphere was everything to him; the atmospheres of other
countries a matter of indifference. The people, too, who
were not farmers, the rural multitude, saw in the god of the
weather a more important personage than they do now.
Indeed, the feeling of the peasantry in this matter was so
intense as to be almost unrealizable in these equable days.
Their impulse was well-nigh to prostrate themselves in
lamentation before untimely rains and tempests, which came
as the Alastor of those households whose crime it was to be
After midsummer they watched the weather-cocks as men
waiting in antechambers watch the lackey. Sun elated them;
quiet rain sobered them; weeks of watery tempest stupefied
them. That aspect of the sky which they now regard as
disagreeable they then beheld as maleficent.
It was June, and the weather was very unfavourable.
Casterbridge, being as it were the bell-board on which all
the adjacent hamlets and villages sounded their notes, was
decidedly dull. Instead of new articles in the shop-windows
those that had been rejected in the foregoing summer were
brought out again; superseded reap-hooks, badly-shaped
rakes, shop-worn leggings, and time-stiffened water-tights
reappeared, furbished up as near to new as possible.
Henchard, backed by Jopp, read a disastrous garnering, and
resolved to base his strategy against Farfrae upon that
reading. But before acting he wished--what so many have
wished--that he could know for certain what was at present
only strong probability. He was superstitious--as such
head-strong natures often are--and he nourished in his mind
an idea bearing on the matter; an idea he shrank from
disclosing even to Jopp.
In a lonely hamlet a few miles from the town--so lonely that
what are called lonely villages were teeming by comparison--
there lived a man of curious repute as a forecaster or
weather-prophet. The way to his house was crooked and miry--
even difficult in the present unpropitious season. One
evening when it was raining so heavily that ivy and laurel
resounded like distant musketry, and an out-door man could
be excused for shrouding himself to his ears and eyes, such
a shrouded figure on foot might have been perceived
travelling in the direction of the hazel-copse which dripped
over the prophet's cot. The turnpike-road became a lane,
the lane a cart-track, the cart-track a bridle-path, the
bridle-path a foot-way, the foot-way overgrown. The
solitary walker slipped here and there, and stumbled over
the natural springes formed by the brambles, till at length
he reached the house, which, with its garden, was surrounded
with a high, dense hedge. The cottage, comparatively a
large one, had been built of mud by the occupier's own
hands, and thatched also by himself. Here he had always
lived, and here it was assumed he would die.
He existed on unseen supplies; for it was an anomalous thing
that while there was hardly a soul in the neighbourhood but
affected to laugh at this man's assertions, uttering the
formula, "There's nothing in 'em," with full assurance on
the surface of their faces, very few of them were
unbelievers in their secret hearts. Whenever they consulted
him they did it "for a fancy." When they paid him they said,
"Just a trifle for Christmas," or "Candlemas," as the case
might be.
He would have preferred more honesty in his clients, and
less sham ridicule; but fundamental belief consoled him for
superficial irony. As stated, he was enabled to live;
people supported him with their backs turned. He was
sometimes astonished that men could profess so little and
believe so much at his house, when at church they professed
so much and believed so little.
Behind his back he was called "Wide-oh," on account of his
reputation; to his face "Mr." Fall.
The hedge of his garden formed an arch over the entrance,
and a door was inserted as in a wall. Outside the door the
tall traveller stopped, bandaged his face with a
handkerchief as if he were suffering from toothache, and
went up the path. The window shutters were not closed, and
he could see the prophet within, preparing his supper.
In answer to the knock Fall came to the door, candle in
hand. The visitor stepped back a little from the light, and
said, "Can I speak to 'ee?" in significant tones. The
other's invitation to come in was responded to by the
country formula, "This will do, thank 'ee," after which the
householder had no alternative but to come out. He placed
the candle on the corner of the dresser, took his hat from a
nail, and joined the stranger in the porch, shutting the
door behind him.
"I've long heard that you can--do things of a sort?" began
the other, repressing his individuality as much as he could.
"Maybe so, Mr. Henchard," said the weather-caster.
"Ah--why do you call me that?" asked the visitor with a
"Because it's your name. Feeling you'd come I've waited for
'ee; and thinking you might be leery from your walk I laid
two supper plates--look ye here." He threw open the door and
disclosed the supper-table, at which appeared a second
chair, knife and fork, plate and mug, as he had declared.
Henchard felt like Saul at his reception by Samuel; he
remained in silence for a few moments, then throwing off the
disguise of frigidity which he had hitherto preserved he
said, "Then I have not come in vain....Now, for instance,
can ye charm away warts?"
"Without trouble."
"Cure the evil?"
"That I've done--with consideration--if they will wear the
toad-bag by night as well as by day."
"Forecast the weather?"
"With labour and time."
"Then take this," said Henchard. "'Tis a crownpiece. Now,
what is the harvest fortnight to be? When can I know?'
"I've worked it out already, and you can know at once." (The
fact was that five farmers had already been there on the
same errand from different parts of the country.) "By the
sun, moon, and stars, by the clouds, the winds, the trees,
and grass, the candle-flame and swallows, the smell of the
herbs; likewise by the cats' eyes, the ravens, the leeches,
the spiders, and the dungmixen, the last fortnight in August
will be--rain and tempest."
"You are not certain, of course?"
"As one can be in a world where all's unsure. 'Twill be
more like living in Revelations this autumn than in England.
Shall I sketch it out for 'ee in a scheme?"
"O no, no," said Henchard. "I don't altogether believe in
forecasts, come to second thoughts on such. But I--"
"You don't--you don't--'tis quite understood," said Wide-oh,
without a sound of scorn. "You have given me a crown
because you've one too many. But won't you join me at
supper, now 'tis waiting and all?"
Henchard would gladly have joined; for the savour of the
stew had floated from the cottage into the porch with such
appetizing distinctness that the meat, the onions, the
pepper, and the herbs could be severally recognized by his
nose. But as sitting down to hob-and-nob there would have
seemed to mark him too implicitly as the weather-caster's
apostle, he declined, and went his way.
The next Saturday Henchard bought grain to such an enormous
extent that there was quite a talk about his purchases among
his neighbours the lawyer, the wine merchant, and the
doctor; also on the next, and on all available days. When
his granaries were full to choking all the weather-cocks of
Casterbridge creaked and set their faces in another
direction, as if tired of the south-west. The weather
changed; the sunlight, which had been like tin for weeks,
assumed the hues of topaz. The temperament of the welkin
passed from the phlegmatic to the sanguine; an excellent
harvest was almost a certainty; and as a consequence prices
rushed down.
All these transformations, lovely to the outsider, to the
wrong-headed corn-dealer were terrible. He was reminded of
what he had well known before, that a man might gamble upon
the square green areas of fields as readily as upon those of
a card-room.
Henchard had backed bad weather, and apparently lost. He
had mistaken the turn of the flood for the turn of the ebb.
His dealings had been so extensive that settlement could not
long be postponed, and to settle he was obliged to sell off
corn that he had bought only a few weeks before at figures
higher by many shillings a quarter. Much of the corn he had
never seen; it had not even been moved from the ricks in
which it lay stacked miles away. Thus he lost heavily.
In the blaze of an early August day he met Farfrae in the
market-place. Farfrae knew of his dealings (though he did
not guess their intended bearing on himself) and
commiserated him; for since their exchange of words in the
South Walk they had been on stiffly speaking terms.
Henchard for the moment appeared to resent the sympathy; but
he suddenly took a careless turn.
"Ho, no, no!--nothing serious, man!" he cried with fierce
gaiety. "These things always happen, don't they? I know it
has been said that figures have touched me tight lately; but
is that anything rare? The case is not so bad as folk make
out perhaps. And dammy, a man must be a fool to mind the
common hazards of trade!"
But he had to enter the Casterbridge Bank that day for
reasons which had never before sent him there--and to sit a
long time in the partners' room with a constrained bearing.
It was rumoured soon after that much real property as well
as vast stores of produce, which had stood in Henchard's
name in the town and neighbourhood, was actually the
possession of his bankers.
Coming down the steps of the bank he encountered Jopp. The
gloomy transactions just completed within had added fever to
the original sting of Farfrae's sympathy that morning, which
Henchard fancied might be a satire disguised so that Jopp
met with anything but a bland reception. The latter was in
the act of taking off his hat to wipe his forehead, and
saying, "A fine hot day," to an acquaintance.
"You can wipe and wipe, and say, 'A fine hot day,' can ye!"
cried Henchard in a savage undertone, imprisoning Jopp
between himself and the bank wall. "If it hadn't been for
your blasted advice it might have been a fine day enough!
Why did ye let me go on, hey?--when a word of doubt from you
or anybody would have made me think twice! For you can never
be sure of weather till 'tis past."
"My advice, sir, was to do what you thought best."
"A useful fellow! And the sooner you help somebody else in
that way the better!" Henchard continued his address to Jopp
in similar terms till it ended in Jopp s dismissal there and
then, Henchard turning upon his heel and leaving him.
"You shall be sorry for this, sir; sorry as a man can be!"
said Jopp, standing pale, and looking after the cornmerchant
as he disappeared in the crowd of market-men hard
It was the eve of harvest. Prices being low Farfrae was
buying. As was usual, after reckoning too surely on famine
weather the local farmers had flown to the other extreme,
and (in Farfrae's opinion) were selling off too recklessly--
calculating with just a trifle too much certainty upon an
abundant yield. So he went on buying old corn at its
comparatively ridiculous price: for the produce of the
previous year, though not large, had been of excellent
When Henchard had squared his affairs in a disastrous way,
and got rid of his burdensome purchases at a monstrous loss,
the harvest began. There were three days of excellent
weather, and then--"What if that curst conjuror should be
right after all!" said Henchard.
The fact was, that no sooner had the sickles begun to play
than the atmosphere suddenly felt as if cress would grow in
it without other nourishment. It rubbed people's cheeks
like damp flannel when they walked abroad. There was a
gusty, high, warm wind; isolated raindrops starred the
window-panes at remote distances: the sunlight would flap
out like a quickly opened fan, throw the pattern of the
window upon the floor of the room in a milky, colourless
shine, and withdraw as suddenly as it had appeared.
From that day and hour it was clear that there was not to be
so successful an ingathering after all. If Henchard had
only waited long enough he might at least have avoided loss
though he had not made a profit. But the momentum of his
character knew no patience. At this turn of the scales he
remained silent. The movements of his mind seemed to tend
to the thought that some power was working against him.
"I wonder," he asked himself with eerie misgiving; "I wonder
if it can be that somebody has been roasting a waxen image
of me, or stirring an unholy brew to confound me! I don't
believe in such power; and yet--what if they should ha' been
doing it!" Even he could not admit that the perpetrator, if
any, might be Farfrae. These isolated hours of superstition
came to Henchard in time of moody depression, when all his
practical largeness of view had oozed out of him.
Meanwhile Donald Farfrae prospered. He had purchased in so
depressed a market that the present moderate stiffness of
prices was sufficient to pile for him a large heap of gold
where a little one had been.
"Why, he'll soon be Mayor!" said Henchard. It was indeed
hard that the speaker should, of all others, have to follow
the triumphal chariot of this man to the Capitol.
The rivalry of the masters was taken up by the men.
September-night shades had fallen upon Casterbridge; the
clocks had struck half-past eight, and the moon had risen.
The streets of the town were curiously silent for such a
comparatively early hour. A sound of jangling horse-bells
and heavy wheels passed up the street. These were followed
by angry voices outside Lucetta's house, which led her and
Elizabeth-Jane to run to the windows, and pull up the
The neighbouring Market House and Town Hall abutted against
its next neighbour the Church except in the lower storey,
where an arched thoroughfare gave admittance to a large
square called Bull Stake. A stone post rose in the midst,
to which the oxen had formerly been tied for baiting with
dogs to make them tender before they were killed in the
adjoining shambles. In a corner stood the stocks.
The thoroughfare leading to this spot was now blocked by two
four-horse waggons and horses, one laden with hay-trusses,
the leaders having already passed each other, and become
entangled head to tail. The passage of the vehicles might
have been practicable if empty; but built up with hay to the
bedroom windows as one was, it was impossible.
"You must have done it a' purpose!" said Farfrae's waggoner.
"You can hear my horses' bells half-a-mile such a night as
"If ye'd been minding your business instead of zwailing
along in such a gawk-hammer way, you would have zeed me!"
retorted the wroth representative of Henchard.
However, according to the strict rule of the road it
appeared that Henchard's man was most in the wrong, he
therefore attempted to back into the High Street. In doing
this the near hind-wheel rose against the churchyard wall
and the whole mountainous load went over, two of the four
wheels rising in the air, and the legs of the thill horse.
Instead of considering how to gather up the load the two men
closed in a fight with their fists. Before the first round
was quite over Henchard came upon the spot, somebody having
run for him.
Henchard sent the two men staggering in contrary directions
by collaring one with each hand, turned to the horse that
was down, and extricated him after some trouble. He then
inquired into the circumstances; and seeing the state of his
waggon and its load began hotly rating Farfrae's man.
Lucetta and Elizabeth-Jane had by this time run down to the
street corner, whence they watched the bright heap of new
hay lying in the moon's rays, and passed and repassed by the
forms of Henchard and the waggoners. The women had
witnessed what nobody else had seen--the origin of the
mishap; and Lucetta spoke.
"I saw it all, Mr. Henchard," she cried; "and your man was
most in the wrong!"
Henchard paused in his harangue and turned. "Oh, I didn't
notice you, Miss Templeman," said he. "My man in the wrong?
Ah, to be sure; to be sure! But I beg your pardon
notwithstanding. The other's is the empty waggon, and he
must have been most to blame for coming on."
"No; I saw it, too," said Elizabeth-Jane. "And I can assure
you he couldn't help it."
"You can't trust THEIR senses!" murmured Henchard's man.
"Why not?" asked Henchard sharply.
"Why, you see, sir, all the women side with Farfrae--being a
damn young dand--of the sort that he is--one that creeps
into a maid's heart like the giddying worm into a sheep's
brain--making crooked seem straight to their eyes!"
"But do you know who that lady is you talk about in such a
fashion? Do you know that I pay my attentions to her, and
have for some time? Just be careful!"
"Not I. I know nothing, sir, outside eight shillings a
"And that Mr. Farfrae is well aware of it? He's sharp in
trade, but he wouldn't do anything so underhand as what you
hint at."
Whether because Lucetta heard this low dialogue, or not her
white figure disappeared from her doorway inward, and the
door was shut before Henchard could reach it to converse
with her further. This disappointed him, for he had been
sufficiently disturbed by what the man had said to wish to
speak to her more closely. While pausing the old constable
came up.
"Just see that nobody drives against that hay and waggon tonight,
Stubberd," said the corn-merchant. "It must bide
till the morning, for all hands are in the field still. And
if any coach or road-waggon wants to come along, tell 'em
they must go round by the back street, and be hanged to
'em....Any case tomorrow up in Hall?"
"Yes, sir. One in number, sir."
"Oh, what's that?"
"An old flagrant female, sir, swearing and committing a
nuisance in a horrible profane manner against the church
wall, sir, as if 'twere no more than a pot-house! That's
all, sir."
"Oh. The Mayor's out o' town, isn't he?"
"He is, sir."
"Very well, then I'll be there. Don't forget to keep an eye
on that hay. Good night t' 'ee."
During those moments Henchard had determined to follow up
Lucetta notwithstanding her elusiveness, and he knocked for
The answer he received was an expression of Miss Templeman's
sorrow at being unable to see him again that evening because
she had an engagement to go out.
Henchard walked away from the door to the opposite side of
the street, and stood by his hay in a lonely reverie, the
constable having strolled elsewhere, and the horses being
removed. Though the moon was not bright as yet there were
no lamps lighted, and he entered the shadow of one of the
projecting jambs which formed the thoroughfare to Bull
Stake; here he watched Lucetta's door.
Candle-lights were flitting in and out of her bedroom, and
it was obvious that she was dressing for the appointment,
whatever the nature of that might be at such an hour. The
lights disappeared, the clock struck nine, and almost at the
moment Farfrae came round the opposite corner and knocked.
That she had been waiting just inside for him was certain,
for she instantly opened the door herself. They went
together by the way of a back lane westward, avoiding the
front street; guessing where they were going he determined
to follow.
The harvest had been so delayed by the capricious weather
that whenever a fine day occurred all sinews were strained
to save what could be saved of the damaged crops. On
account of the rapid shortening of the days the harvesters
worked by moonlight. Hence to-night the wheat-fields
abutting on the two sides of the square formed by
Casterbridge town were animated by the gathering hands.
Their shouts and laughter had reached Henchard at the Market
House, while he stood there waiting, and he had little doubt
from the turn which Farfrae and Lucetta had taken that they
were bound for the spot.
Nearly the whole town had gone into the fields. The
Casterbridge populace still retained the primitive habit of
helping one another in time of need; and thus, though the
corn belonged to the farming section of the little
community--that inhabiting the Durnover quarter--the
remainder was no less interested in the labour of getting it
Reaching the top of the lane Henchard crossed the shaded
avenue on the walls, slid down the green rampart, and stood
amongst the stubble. The "stitches" or shocks rose like
tents about the yellow expanse, those in the distance
becoming lost in the moonlit hazes.
He had entered at a point removed from the scene of
immediate operations; but two others had entered at that
place, and he could see them winding among the shocks. They
were paying no regard to the direction of their walk, whose
vague serpentining soon began to bear down towards Henchard.
A meeting promised to be awkward, and he therefore stepped
into the hollow of the nearest shock, and sat down.
"You have my leave," Lucetta was saying gaily. "Speak what
you like."
"Well, then," replied Farfrae, with the unmistakable
inflection of the lover pure, which Henchard had never heard
in full resonance of his lips before, "you are sure to be
much sought after for your position, wealth, talents, and
beauty. But will ye resist the temptation to be one of
those ladies with lots of admirers--ay--and be content to
have only a homely one?"
"And he the speaker?" said she, laughing. "Very well, sir,
what next?"
"Ah! I'm afraid that what I feel will make me forget my
"Then I hope you'll never have any, if you lack them only
for that cause." After some broken words which Henchard lost
she added, "Are you sure you won't be jealous?"
Farfrae seemed to assure her that he would not, by taking
her hand.
"You are convinced, Donald, that I love nobody else," she
presently said. "But I should wish to have my own way in
some things."
"In everything! What special thing did you mean?"
"If I wished not to live always in Casterbridge, for
instance, upon finding that I should not be happy here?"
Henchard did not hear the reply; he might have done so and
much more, but he did not care to play the eavesdropper.
They went on towards the scene of activity, where the
sheaves were being handed, a dozen a minute, upon the carts
and waggons which carried them away.
Lucetta insisted on parting from Farfrae when they drew near
the workpeople. He had some business with them and, thought
he entreated her to wait a few minutes, she was inexorable,
and tripped off homeward alone.
Henchard thereupon left the field and followed her. His
state of mind was such that on reaching Lucetta's door he
did not knock but opened it, and walked straight up to her
sitting-room, expecting to find her there. But the room was
empty, and he perceived that in his haste he had somehow
passed her on the way hither. He had not to wait many
minutes, however, for he soon heard her dress rustling in
the hall, followed by a soft closing of the door. In a
moment she appeared.
The light was so low that she did not notice Henchard at
first. As soon as she saw him she uttered a little cry,
almost of terror.
"How can you frighten me so?" she exclaimed, with a flushed
face. "It is past ten o'clock, and you have no right to
surprise me here at such a time."
"I don't know that I've not the right. At any rate I have
the excuse. Is it so necessary that I should stop to think
of manners and customs?"
"It is too late for propriety, and might injure me."
"I called an hour ago, and you would not see me, and I
thought you were in when I called now. It is you, Lucetta,
who are doing wrong. It is not proper in 'ee to throw me
over like this. I have a little matter to remind you of,
which you seem to forget."
She sank into a chair, and turned pale.
"I don't want to hear it--I don't want to hear it!" she said
through her hands, as he, standing close to the edge of her
gown, began to allude to the Jersey days.
"But you ought to hear it," said he.
"It came to nothing; and through you. Then why not leave me
the freedom that I gained with such sorrow! Had I found that
you proposed to marry me for pure love I might have felt
bound now. But I soon learnt that you had planned it out of
mere charity--almost as an unpleasant duty--because I had
nursed you, and compromised myself, and you thought you must
repay me. After that I did not care for you so deeply as
"Why did you come here to find me, then?"
"I thought I ought to marry you for conscience' sake, since
you were free, even though I--did not like you so well."
"And why then don't you think so now?"
She was silent. It was only too obvious that conscience had
ruled well enough till new love had intervened and usurped
that rule. In feeling this she herself forgot for the
moment her partially justifying argument--that having
discovered Henchard's infirmities of temper, she had some
excuse for not risking her happiness in his hands after once
escaping them. The only thing she could say was, "I was a
poor girl then; and now my circumstances have altered, so I
am hardly the same person."
"That's true. And it makes the case awkward for me. But I
don't want to touch your money. I am quite willing that
every penny of your property shall remain to your personal
use. Besides, that argument has nothing in it. The man you
are thinking of is no better than I."
"If you were as good as he you would leave me!" she cried
This unluckily aroused Henchard. "You cannot in honour
refuse me," he said. "And unless you give me your promise
this very night to be my wife, before a witness, I'll reveal
our intimacy--in common fairness to other men!"
A look of resignation settled upon her. Henchard saw its
bitterness; and had Lucetta's heart been given to any other
man in the world than Farfrae he would probably have had
pity upon her at that moment. But the supplanter was the
upstart (as Henchard called him) who had mounted into
prominence upon his shoulders, and he could bring himself to
show no mercy.
Without another word she rang the bell, and directed that
Elizabeth-Jane should be fetched from her room. The latter
appeared, surprised in the midst of her lucubrations. As
soon as she saw Henchard she went across to him dutifully.
"Elizabeth-Jane," he said, taking her hand, "I want you to
hear this." And turning to Lucetta: "Will you, or will you
not, marry me?
"If you--wish it, I must agree!"
"You say yes?"
"I do."
No sooner had she given the promise than she fell back in a
fainting state.
"What dreadful thing drives her to say this, father, when it
is such a pain to her?" asked Elizabeth, kneeling down by
Lucetta. "Don't compel her to do anything against her will!
I have lived with her, and know that she cannot bear much."
"Don't be a no'thern simpleton!" said Henchard drily. "This
promise will leave him free for you, if you want him, won't
At this Lucetta seemed to wake from her swoon with a start.
"Him? Who are you talking about?" she said wildly.
"Nobody, as far as I am concerned," said Elizabeth firmly.
"Oh--well. Then it is my mistake," said Henchard. "But the
business is between me and Miss Templeman. She agrees to be
my wife."
"But don't dwell on it just now," entreated Elizabeth,
holding Lucetta's hand.
"I don't wish to, if she promises," said Henchard.
"I have, I have," groaned Lucetta, her limbs hanging like
fluid, from very misery and faintness. "Michael, please
don't argue it any more!"
"I will not," he said. And taking up his hat he went away.
Elizabeth-Jane continued to kneel by Lucetta. "What is
this?" she said. "You called my father 'Michael' as if you
knew him well? And how is it he has got this power over you,
that you promise to marry him against your will? Ah--you
have many many secrets from me!"
"Perhaps you have some from me," Lucetta murmured with
closed eyes, little thinking, however, so unsuspicious was
she, that the secret of Elizabeth's heart concerned the
young man who had caused this damage to her own.
"I would not--do anything against you at all!" stammered
Elizabeth, keeping in all signs of emotion till she was
ready to burst. "I cannot understand how my father can
command you so; I don't sympathize with him in it at all.
I'll go to him and ask him to release you."
"No, no," said Lucetta. "Let it all be."
The next morning Henchard went to the Town Hall below
Lucetta's house, to attend Petty Sessions, being still a
magistrate for the year by virtue of his late position as
Mayor. In passing he looked up at her windows, but nothing
of her was to be seen.
Henchard as a Justice of the Peace may at first seem to be
an even greater incongruity than Shallow and Silence
themselves. But his rough and ready perceptions, his
sledge-hammer directness, had often served him better than
nice legal knowledge in despatching such simple business as
fell to his hands in this Court. To-day Dr. Chalkfield, the
Mayor for the year, being absent, the corn-merchant took the
big chair, his eyes still abstractedly stretching out of the
window to the ashlar front of High-Place Hall.
There was one case only, and the offender stood before him.
She was an old woman of mottled countenance, attired in a
shawl of that nameless tertiary hue which comes, but cannot
be made--a hue neither tawny, russet, hazel, nor ash; a
sticky black bonnet that seemed to have been worn in the
country of the Psalmist where the clouds drop fatness; and
an apron that had been white in time so comparatively recent
as still to contrast visibly with the rest of her clothes.
The steeped aspect of the woman as a whole showed her to be
no native of the country-side or even of a country-town.
She looked cursorily at Henchard and the second magistrate,
and Henchard looked at her, with a momentary pause, as if
she had reminded him indistinctly of somebody or something
which passed from his mind as quickly as it had come.
"Well, and what has she been doing?" he said, looking down
at the charge sheet.
"She is charged, sir, with the offence of disorderly female
and nuisance," whispered Stubberd.
"Where did she do that?" said the other magistrate.
"By the church, sir, of all the horrible places in the
world!--I caught her in the act, your worship."
"Stand back then," said Henchard, "and let's hear what
you've got to say."
Stubberd was sworn in, the magistrate's clerk dipped his
pen, Henchard being no note-taker himself, and the constable
"Hearing a' illegal noise I went down the street at twentyfive
minutes past eleven P.M. on the night of the fifth
instinct, Hannah Dominy. When I had--
"Don't go so fast, Stubberd," said the clerk.
The constable waited, with his eyes on the clerk's pen, till
the latter stopped scratching and said, "yes." Stubberd
continued: "When I had proceeded to the spot I saw defendant
at another spot, namely, the gutter." He paused, watching
the point of the clerk's pen again.
"Gutter, yes, Stubberd."
"Spot measuring twelve feet nine inches or thereabouts from
where I--" Still careful not to outrun the clerk's
penmanship Stubberd pulled up again; for having got his
evidence by heart it was immaterial to him whereabouts he
broke off.
"I object to that," spoke up the old woman, "'spot measuring
twelve feet nine or thereabouts from where I,' is not sound
The magistrates consulted, and the second one said that the
bench was of opinion that twelve feet nine inches from a man
on his oath was admissible.
Stubberd, with a suppressed gaze of victorious rectitude at
the old woman, continued: "Was standing myself. She was
wambling about quite dangerous to the thoroughfare and when
I approached to draw near she committed the nuisance, and
insulted me."
"'Insulted me.'...Yes, what did she say?"
"She said, 'Put away that dee lantern,' she says."
"Says she, 'Dost hear, old turmit-head? Put away that dee
lantern. I have floored fellows a dee sight finer-looking
than a dee fool like thee, you son of a bee, dee me if I
haint,' she says.
"I object to that conversation!" interposed the old woman.
"I was not capable enough to hear what I said, and what is
said out of my hearing is not evidence."
There was another stoppage for consultation, a book was
referred to, and finally Stubberd was allowed to go on
again. The truth was that the old woman had appeared in
court so many more times than the magistrates themselves,
that they were obliged to keep a sharp look-out upon their
procedure. However, when Stubberd had rambled on a little
further Henchard broke out impatiently, "Come--we don't want
to hear any more of them cust dees and bees! Say the words
out like a man, and don't be so modest, Stubberd; or else
leave it alone!" Turning to the woman, "Now then, have you
any questions to ask him, or anything to say?"
"Yes," she replied with a twinkle in her eye; and the clerk
dipped his pen.
"Twenty years ago or thereabout I was selling of furmity in
a tent at Weydon Fair----"
"'Twenty years ago'--well, that's beginning at the
beginning; suppose you go back to the Creation!" said the
clerk, not without satire.
But Henchard stared, and quite forgot what was evidence and
what was not.
"A man and a woman with a little child came into my tent,"
the woman continued. "They sat down and had a basin apiece.
Ah, Lord's my life! I was of a more respectable station in
the world then than I am now, being a land smuggler in a
large way of business; and I used to season my furmity with
rum for them who asked for't. I did it for the man; and
then he had more and more; till at last he quarrelled with
his wife, and offered to sell her to the highest bidder. A
sailor came in and bid five guineas, and paid the money, and
led her away. And the man who sold his wife in that fashion
is the man sitting there in the great big chair." The
speaker concluded by nodding her head at Henchard and
folding her arms.
Everybody looked at Henchard. His face seemed strange, and
in tint as if it had been powdered over with ashes. "We
don't want to hear your life and adventures," said the
second magistrate sharply, filling the pause which followed.
"You've been asked if you've anything to say bearing on the
"That bears on the case. It proves that he's no better than
I, and has no right to sit there in judgment upon me."
"'Tis a concocted story," said the clerk. "So hold your
"No--'tis true." The words came from Henchard. "'Tis as
true as the light," he said slowly. "And upon my soul it
does prove that I'm no better than she! And to keep out of
any temptation to treat her hard for her revenge, I'll leave
her to you."
The sensation in the court was indescribably great.
Henchard left the chair, and came out, passing through a
group of people on the steps and outside that was much
larger than usual; for it seemed that the old furmity dealer
had mysteriously hinted to the denizens of the lane in which
she had been lodging since her arrival, that she knew a
queer thing or two about their great local man Mr. Henchard,
if she chose to tell it. This had brought them hither.
"Why are there so many idlers round the Town Hall to-day?"
said Lucetta to her servant when the case was over. She had
risen late, and had just looked out of the window.
"Oh, please, ma'am, 'tis this larry about Mr. Henchard. A
woman has proved that before he became a gentleman he sold
his wife for five guineas in a booth at a fair."
In all the accounts which Henchard had given her of the
separation from his wife Susan for so many years, of his
belief in her death, and so on, he had never clearly
explained the actual and immediate cause of that separation.
The story she now heard for the first time.
A gradual misery overspread Lucetta's face as she dwelt upon
the promise wrung from her the night before. At bottom,
then, Henchard was this. How terrible a contingency for a
woman who should commit herself to his care.
During the day she went out to the Ring and to other places,
not coming in till nearly dusk. As soon as she saw
Elizabeth-Jane after her return indoors she told her that
she had resolved to go away from home to the seaside for a
few days--to Port-Bredy; Casterbridge was so gloomy.
Elizabeth, seeing that she looked wan and disturbed,
encouraged her in the idea, thinking a change would afford
her relief. She could not help suspecting that the gloom
which seemed to have come over Casterbridge in Lucetta's
eyes might be partially owing to the fact that Farfrae was
away from home.
Elizabeth saw her friend depart for Port-Bredy, and took
charge of High-Place Hall till her return. After two or
three days of solitude and incessant rain Henchard called at
the house. He seemed disappointed to hear of Lucetta's
absence and though he nodded with outward indifference he
went away handling his beard with a nettled mien.
The next day he called again. "Is she come now?" he asked.
"Yes. She returned this morning," replied his stepdaughter.
"But she is not indoors. She has gone for a walk
along the turnpike-road to Port-Bredy. She will be home by
After a few words, which only served to reveal his restless
impatience, he left the house again.
At this hour Lucetta was bounding along the road to Port-
Bredy just as Elizabeth had announced. That she had chosen
for her afternoon walk the road along which she had returned
to Casterbridge three hours earlier in a carriage was
curious--if anything should be called curious in
concatenations of phenomena wherein each is known to have
its accounting cause. It was the day of the chief market--
Saturday--and Farfrae for once had been missed from his
corn-stand in the dealers' room. Nevertheless, it was known
that he would be home that night--"for Sunday," as
Casterbridge expressed it.
Lucetta, in continuing her walk, had at length reached the
end of the ranked trees which bordered the highway in this
and other directions out of the town. This end marked a
mile; and here she stopped.
The spot was a vale between two gentle acclivities, and the
road, still adhering to its Roman foundation, stretched
onward straight as a surveyor's line till lost to sight on
the most distant ridge. There was neither hedge nor tree in
the prospect now, the road clinging to the stubby expanse of
corn-land like a strip to an undulating garment. Near her
was a barn--the single building of any kind within her
She strained her eyes up the lessening road, but nothing
appeared thereon--not so much as a speck. She sighed one
word--"Donald!" and turned her face to the town for retreat.
Here the case was different. A single figure was
approaching her--Elizabeth-Jane's.
Lucetta, in spite of her loneliness, seemed a little vexed.
Elizabeth's face, as soon as she recognized her friend,
shaped itself into affectionate lines while yet beyond
speaking distance. "I suddenly thought I would come and
meet you," she said, smiling.
Lucetta's reply was taken from her lips by an unexpected
diversion. A by-road on her right hand descended from the
fields into the highway at the point where she stood, and
down the track a bull was rambling uncertainly towards her
and Elizabeth, who, facing the other way, did not observe
In the latter quarter of each year cattle were at once the
mainstay and the terror of families about Casterbridge and
its neighbourhood, where breeding was carried on with
Abrahamic success. The head of stock driven into and out of
the town at this season to be sold by the local auctioneer
was very large; and all these horned beasts, in travelling
to and fro, sent women and children to shelter as nothing
else could do. In the main the animals would have walked
along quietly enough; but the Casterbridge tradition was
that to drive stock it was indispensable that hideous cries,
coupled with Yahoo antics and gestures, should be used,
large sticks flourished, stray dogs called in, and in
general everything done that was likely to infuriate the
viciously disposed and terrify the mild. Nothing was
commoner than for a house-holder on going out of his parlour
to find his hall or passage full of little children,
nursemaids, aged women, or a ladies' school, who apologized
for their presence by saying, "A bull passing down street
from the sale."
Lucetta and Elizabeth regarded the animal in doubt, he
meanwhile drawing vaguely towards them. It was a large
specimen of the breed, in colour rich dun, though disfigured
at present by splotches of mud about his seamy sides. His
horns were thick and tipped with brass; his two nostrils
like the Thames Tunnel as seen in the perspective toys of
yore. Between them, through the gristle of his nose, was a
stout copper ring, welded on, and irremovable as Gurth's
collar of brass. To the ring was attached an ash staff
about a yard long, which the bull with the motions of his
head flung about like a flail.
It was not till they observed this dangling stick that the
young women were really alarmed; for it revealed to them
that the bull was an old one, too savage to be driven, which
had in some way escaped, the staff being the means by which
the drover controlled him and kept his horns at arms'
They looked round for some shelter or hiding-place, and
thought of the barn hard by. As long as they had kept their
eyes on the bull he had shown some deference in his manner
of approach; but no sooner did they turn their backs to seek
the barn than he tossed his head and decided to thoroughly
terrify them. This caused the two helpless girls to run
wildly, whereupon the bull advanced in a deliberate charge.
The barn stood behind a green slimy pond, and it was closed
save as to one of the usual pair of doors facing them, which
had been propped open by a hurdle-stick, and for this
opening they made. The interior had been cleared by a
recent bout of threshing except at one end, where there was
a stack of dry clover. Elizabeth-Jane took in the
situation. "We must climb up there," she said.
But before they had even approached it they heard the bull
scampering through the pond without, and in a second he
dashed into the barn, knocking down the hurdle-stake in
passing; the heavy door slammed behind him; and all three
were imprisoned in the barn together. The mistaken creature
saw them, and stalked towards the end of the barn into which
they had fled. The girls doubled so adroitly that their
pursuer was against the wall when the fugitives were already
half way to the other end. By the time that his length
would allow him to turn and follow them thither they had
crossed over; thus the pursuit went on, the hot air from his
nostrils blowing over them like a sirocco, and not a moment
being attainable by Elizabeth or Lucetta in which to open
the door. What might have happened had their situation
continued cannot be said; but in a few moments a rattling of
the door distracted their adversary's attention, and a man
appeared. He ran forward towards the leading-staff, seized
it, and wrenched the animal's head as if he would snap it
off. The wrench was in reality so violent that the thick
neck seemed to have lost its stiffness and to become halfparalyzed,
whilst the nose dropped blood. The premeditated
human contrivance of the nose-ring was too cunning for
impulsive brute force, and the creature flinched.
The man was seen in the partial gloom to be large-framed and
unhesitating. He led the bull to the door, and the light
revealed Henchard. He made the bull fast without, and reentered
to the succour of Lucetta; for he had not perceived
Elizabeth, who had climbed on to the clover-heap. Lucetta
was hysterical, and Henchard took her in his arms and
carried her to the door.
"You--have saved me!" she cried, as soon as she could speak.
"I have returned your kindness," he responded tenderly.
"You once saved me."
"How--comes it to be you--you?" she asked, not heeding his
"I came out here to look for you. I have been wanting to
tell you something these two or three days; but you have
been away, and I could not. Perhaps you cannot talk now?"
"Oh--no! Where is Elizabeth?"
"Here am I!" cried the missing one cheerfully; and without
waiting for the ladder to be placed she slid down the face
of the clover-stack to the floor.
Henchard supporting Lucetta on one side, and Elizabeth-Jane
on the other, they went slowly along the rising road. They
had reached the top and were descending again when Lucetta,
now much recovered, recollected that she had dropped her
muff in the barn.
"I'll run back," said Elizabeth-Jane. "I don't mind it at
all, as I am not tired as you are." She thereupon hastened
down again to the barn, the others pursuing their way.
Elizabeth soon found the muff, such an article being by no
means small at that time. Coming out she paused to look for
a moment at the bull, now rather to be pitied with his
bleeding nose, having perhaps rather intended a practical
joke than a murder. Henchard had secured him by jamming the
staff into the hinge of the barn-door, and wedging it there
with a stake. At length she turned to hasten onward after
her contemplation, when she saw a green-and-black gig
approaching from the contrary direction, the vehicle being
driven by Farfrae.
His presence here seemed to explain Lucetta's walk that way.
Donald saw her, drew up, and was hastily made acquainted
with what had occurred. At Elizabeth-Jane mentioning how
greatly Lucetta had been jeopardized, he exhibited an
agitation different in kind no less than in intensity from
any she had seen in him before. He became so absorbed in
the circumstance that he scarcely had sufficient knowledge
of what he was doing to think of helping her up beside him.
"She has gone on with Mr. Henchard, you say?" he inquired at
"Yes. He is taking her home. They are almost there by this
"And you are sure she can get home?"
Elizabeth-Jane was quite sure.
"Your stepfather saved her?"
Farfrae checked his horse's pace; she guessed why. He was
thinking that it would be best not to intrude on the other
two just now. Henchard had saved Lucetta, and to provoke a
possible exhibition of her deeper affection for himself was
as ungenerous as it was unwise.
The immediate subject of their talk being exhausted she felt
more embarrassed at sitting thus beside her past lover; but
soon the two figures of the others were visible at the
entrance to the town. The face of the woman was frequently
turned back, but Farfrae did not whip on the horse. When
these reached the town walls Henchard and his companion had
disappeared down the street; Farfrae set down Elizabeth-Jane
on her expressing a particular wish to alight there, and
drove round to the stables at the back of his lodgings.
On this account he entered the house through his garden, and
going up to his apartments found them in a particularly
disturbed state, his boxes being hauled out upon the
landing, and his bookcase standing in three pieces. These
phenomena, however, seemed to cause him not the least
surprise. "When will everything be sent up?" he said to the
mistress of the house, who was superintending.
"I am afraid not before eight, sir," said she. "You see we
wasn't aware till this morning that you were going to move,
or we could have been forwarder."
"A--well, never mind, never mind!" said Farfrae cheerily.
"Eight o'clock will do well enough if it be not later. Now,
don't ye be standing here talking, or it will be twelve, I
doubt." Thus speaking he went out by the front door and up
the street.
During this interval Henchard and Lucetta had had
experiences of a different kind. After Elizabeth's
departure for the muff the corn-merchant opened himself
frankly, holding her hand within his arm, though she would
fain have withdrawn it. "Dear Lucetta, I have been very,
very anxious to see you these two or three days," he said,
"ever since I saw you last! I have thought over the way I
got your promise that night. You said to me, 'If I were a
man I should not insist.' That cut me deep. I felt that
there was some truth in it. I don't want to make you
wretched; and to marry me just now would do that as nothing
else could--it is but too plain. Therefore I agree to an
indefinite engagement--to put off all thought of marriage
for a year or two."
"But--but--can I do nothing of a different kind?" said
Lucetta. "I am full of gratitude to you--you have saved my
life. And your care of me is like coals of fire on my head!
I am a monied person now. Surely I can do something in
return for your goodness--something practical?"
Henchard remained in thought. He had evidently not expected
this. "There is one thing you might do, Lucetta," he said.
"But not exactly of that kind."
"Then of what kind is it?" she asked with renewed misgiving.
"I must tell you a secret to ask it.--You may have heard
that I have been unlucky this year? I did what I have never
done before--speculated rashly; and I lost. That's just put
me in a strait.
"And you would wish me to advance some money?"
"No, no!" said Henchard, almost in anger. "I'm not the man
to sponge on a woman, even though she may be so nearly my
own as you. No, Lucetta; what you can do is this and it
would save me. My great creditor is Grower, and it is at
his hands I shall suffer if at anybody's; while a
fortnight's forbearance on his part would be enough to allow
me to pull through. This may be got out of him in one way--
that you would let it be known to him that you are my
intended--that we are to be quietly married in the next
fortnight.--Now stop, you haven't heard all! Let him have
this story, without, of course, any prejudice to the fact
that the actual engagement between us is to be a long one.
Nobody else need know: you could go with me to Mr. Grower
and just let me speak to 'ee before him as if we were on
such terms. We'll ask him to keep it secret. He will
willingly wait then. At the fortnight's end I shall be able
to face him; and I can coolly tell him all is postponed
between us for a year or two. Not a soul in the town need
know how you've helped me. Since you wish to be of use,
there's your way."
It being now what the people called the "pinking in" of the
day, that is, the quarter-hour just before dusk, he did not
at first observe the result of his own words upon her.
"If it were anything else," she began, and the dryness of
her lips was represented in her voice.
"But it is such a little thing!" he said, with a deep
reproach. "Less than you have offered--just the beginning
of what you have so lately promised! I could have told him
as much myself, but he would not have believed me."
"It is not because I won't--it is because I absolutely
can't," she said, with rising distress.
"You are provoking!" he burst out. "It is enough to make me
force you to carry out at once what you have promised."
"I cannot!" she insisted desperately.
"Why? When I have only within these few minutes released you
from your promise to do the thing offhand."
"Because--he was a witness!"
"Witness? Of what?
"If I must tell you----. Don't, don't upbraid me!"
"Well! Let's hear what you mean?"
"Witness of my marriage--Mr. Grower was!"
"Yes. With Mr. Farfrae. O Michael! I am already his wife.
We were married this week at Port-Bredy. There were reasons
against our doing it here. Mr. Grower was a witness because
he happened to be at Port-Bredy at the time."
Henchard stood as if idiotized. She was so alarmed at his
silence that she murmured something about lending him
sufficient money to tide over the perilous fortnight.
"Married him?" said Henchard at length. "My good--what,
married him whilst--bound to marry me?"
"It was like this," she explained, with tears in her eyes
and quavers in her voice; "don't--don't be cruel! I loved
him so much, and I thought you might tell him of the past--
and that grieved me! And then, when I had promised you, I
learnt of the rumour that you had--sold your first wife at a
fair like a horse or cow! How could I keep my promise after
hearing that? I could not risk myself in your hands; it
would have been letting myself down to take your name after
such a scandal. But I knew I should lose Donald if I did
not secure him at once--for you would carry out your threat
of telling him of our former acquaintance, as long as there
was a chance of keeping me for yourself by doing so. But
you will not do so now, will you, Michael? for it is too
late to separate us."
The notes of St. Peter's bells in full peal had been wafted
to them while he spoke, and now the genial thumping of the
town band, renowned for its unstinted use of the drum-stick,
throbbed down the street.
"Then this racket they are making is on account of it, I
suppose?" said he.
"Yes--I think he has told them, or else Mr. Grower
has....May I leave you now? My--he was detained at Port-
Bredy to-day, and sent me on a few hours before him."
"Then it is HIS WIFE'S life I have saved this
"Yes--and he will be for ever grateful to you."
"I am much obliged to him....O you false woman!" burst from
Henchard. "You promised me!"
"Yes, yes! But it was under compulsion, and I did not know
all your past----"
"And now I've a mind to punish you as you deserve! One word
to this bran-new husband of how you courted me, and your
precious happiness is blown to atoms!"
"Michael--pity me, and be generous!"
"You don't deserve pity! You did; but you don't now."
"I'll help you to pay off your debt."
"A pensioner of Farfrae's wife--not I! Don't stay with me
longer--I shall say something worse. Go home!"
She disappeared under the trees of the south walk as the
band came round the corner, awaking the echoes of every
stock and stone in celebration of her happiness. Lucetta
took no heed, but ran up the back street and reached her own
home unperceived.
Farfrae's words to his landlady had referred to the removal
of his boxes and other effects from his late lodgings to
Lucetta's house. The work was not heavy, but it had been
much hindered on account of the frequent pauses necessitated
by exclamations of surprise at the event, of which the good
woman had been briefly informed by letter a few hours
At the last moment of leaving Port-Bredy, Farfrae, like John
Gilpin, had been detained by important customers, whom, even
in the exceptional circumstances, he was not the man to
neglect. Moreover, there was a convenience in Lucetta
arriving first at her house. Nobody there as yet knew what
had happened; and she was best in a position to break the
news to the inmates, and give directions for her husband's
accommodation. He had, therefore, sent on his two-days'
bride in a hired brougham, whilst he went across the country
to a certain group of wheat and barley ricks a few miles
off, telling her the hour at which he might be expected the
same evening. This accounted for her trotting out to meet
him after their separation of four hours.
By a strenuous effort, after leaving Henchard she calmed
herself in readiness to receive Donald at High-Place Hall
when he came on from his lodgings. One supreme fact
empowered her to this, the sense that, come what would, she
had secured him. Half-an-hour after her arrival he walked
in, and she met him with a relieved gladness, which a
month's perilous absence could not have intensified.
"There is one thing I have not done; and yet it is
important," she said earnestly, when she had finished
talking about the adventure with the bull. "That is, broken
the news of our marriage to my dear Elizabeth-Jane."
"Ah, and you have not?" he said thoughtfully. "I gave her a
lift from the barn homewards; but I did not tell her either;
for I thought she might have heard of it in the town, and
was keeping back her congratulations from shyness, and all
"She can hardly have heard of it. But I'll find out; I'll
go to her now. And, Donald, you don't mind her living on
with me just the same as before? She is so quiet and
"O no, indeed I don't," Farfrae answered with, perhaps, a
faint awkwardness. "But I wonder if she would care to?"
"O yes!" said Lucetta eagerly. "I am sure she would like
to. Besides, poor thing, she has no other home."
Farfrae looked at her and saw that she did not suspect the
secret of her more reserved friend. He liked her all the
better for the blindness. "Arrange as you like with her by
all means," he said. "It is I who have come to your house,
not you to mine."
"I'll run and speak to her," said Lucetta.
When she got upstairs to Elizabeth-Jane's room the latter
had taken off her out-door things, and was resting over a
book. Lucetta found in a moment that she had not yet learnt
the news.
"I did not come down to you, Miss Templeman," she said
simply. "I was coming to ask if you had quite recovered
from your fright, but I found you had a visitor. What are
the bells ringing for, I wonder? And the band, too, is
playing. Somebody must be married; or else they are
practising for Christmas."
Lucetta uttered a vague "Yes," and seating herself by the
other young woman looked musingly at her. "What a lonely
creature you are," she presently said; "never knowing what's
going on, or what people are talking about everywhere with
keen interest. You should get out, and gossip about as
other women do, and then you wouldn't be obliged to ask me a
question of that kind. Well, now, I have something to tell
Elizabeth-Jane said she was so glad, and made herself
"I must go rather a long way back," said Lucetta, the
difficulty of explaining herself satisfactorily to the
pondering one beside her growing more apparent at each
syllable. "You remember that trying case of conscience I
told you of some time ago--about the first lover and the
second lover?" She let out in jerky phrases a leading word
or two of the story she had told.
"O yes--I remember the story of YOUR FRIEND," said
Elizabeth drily, regarding the irises of Lucetta's eyes as
though to catch their exact shade. "The two lovers--the old
one and the new: how she wanted to marry the second, but
felt she ought to marry the first; so that she neglected the
better course to follow the evil, like the poet Ovid I've
just been construing: 'Video meliora proboque, deteriora
"O no; she didn't follow evil exactly!" said Lucetta
"But you said that she--or as I may say you"--answered
Elizabeth, dropping the mask, "were in honour and conscience
bound to marry the first?"
Lucetta's blush at being seen through came and went again
before she replied anxiously, "You will never breathe this,
will you, Elizabeth-Jane?"
"Certainly not, if you say not.
"Then I will tell you that the case is more complicated--
worse, in fact--than it seemed in my story. I and the first
man were thrown together in a strange way, and felt that we
ought to be united, as the world had talked of us. He was a
widower, as he supposed. He had not heard of his first wife
for many years. But the wife returned, and we parted. She
is now dead, and the husband comes paying me addresses
again, saying, 'Now we'll complete our purposes.' But,
Elizabeth-Jane, all this amounts to a new courtship of me by
him; I was absolved from all vows by the return of the other
"Have you not lately renewed your promise?" said the younger
with quiet surmise. She had divined Man Number One.
"That was wrung from me by a threat."
"Yes, it was. But I think when any one gets coupled up with
a man in the past so unfortunately as you have done she
ought to become his wife if she can, even if she were not
the sinning party."
Lucetta's countenance lost its sparkle. "He turned out to
be a man I should be afraid to marry," she pleaded. "Really
afraid! And it was not till after my renewed promise that I
knew it."
"Then there is only one course left to honesty. You must
remain a single woman."
"But think again! Do consider----"
"I am certain," interrupted her companion hardily. "I have
guessed very well who the man is. My father; and I say it
is him or nobody for you."
Any suspicion of impropriety was to Elizabeth-Jane like a
red rag to a bull. Her craving for correctness of procedure
was, indeed, almost vicious. Owing to her early troubles
with regard to her mother a semblance of irregularity had
terrors for her which those whose names are safeguarded from
suspicion know nothing of. "You ought to marry Mr. Henchard
or nobody--certainly not another man!" she went on with a
quivering lip in whose movement two passions shared.
"I don't admit that!" said Lucetta passionately.
"Admit it or not, it is true!"
Lucetta covered her eyes with her right hand, as if she
could plead no more, holding out her left to Elizabeth-Jane.
"Why, you HAVE married him!" cried the latter, jumping
up with pleasure after a glance at Lucetta's fingers. "When
did you do it? Why did you not tell me, instead of teasing
me like this? How very honourable of you! He did treat my
mother badly once, it seems, in a moment of intoxication.
And it is true that he is stern sometimes. But you will
rule him entirely, I am sure, with your beauty and wealth
and accomplishments. You are the woman he will adore, and
we shall all three be happy together now!"
"O, my Elizabeth-Jane!" cried Lucetta distressfully. "'Tis
somebody else that I have married! I was so desperate--so
afraid of being forced to anything else--so afraid of
revelations that would quench his love for me, that I
resolved to do it offhand, come what might, and purchase a
week of happiness at any cost!"
"You--have--married Mr. Farfrae!" cried Elizabeth-Jane, in
Nathan tones
Lucetta bowed. She had recovered herself.
"The bells are ringing on that account," she said. "My
husband is downstairs. He will live here till a more
suitable house is ready for us; and I have told him that I
want you to stay with me just as before."
"Let me think of it alone," the girl quickly replied,
corking up the turmoil of her feeling with grand control.
"You shall. I am sure we shall be happy together."
Lucetta departed to join Donald below, a vague uneasiness
floating over her joy at seeing him quite at home there.
Not on account of her friend Elizabeth did she feel it: for
of the bearings of Elizabeth-Jane's emotions she had not the
least suspicion; but on Henchard's alone.
Now the instant decision of Susan Henchard's daughter was to
dwell in that house no more. Apart from her estimate of the
propriety of Lucetta's conduct, Farfrae had been so nearly
her avowed lover that she felt she could not abide there.
It was still early in the evening when she hastily put on
her things and went out. In a few minutes, knowing the
ground, she had found a suitable lodging, and arranged to
enter it that night. Returning and entering noiselessly she
took off her pretty dress and arrayed herself in a plain
one, packing up the other to keep as her best; for she would
have to be very economical now. She wrote a note to leave
for Lucetta, who was closely shut up in the drawing-room
with Farfrae; and then Elizabeth-Jane called a man with a
wheel-barrow; and seeing her boxes put into it she trotted
off down the street to her rooms. They were in the street
in which Henchard lived, and almost opposite his door.
Here she sat down and considered the means of subsistence.
The little annual sum settled on her by her stepfather would
keep body and soul together. A wonderful skill in netting
of all sorts--acquired in childhood by making seines in
Newson's home--might serve her in good stead; and her
studies, which were pursued unremittingly, might serve her
in still better.
By this time the marriage that had taken place was known
throughout Casterbridge; had been discussed noisily on
kerbstones, confidentially behind counters, and jovially at
the Three Mariners. Whether Farfrae would sell his business
and set up for a gentleman on his wife's money, or whether
he would show independence enough to stick to his trade in
spite of his brilliant alliance, was a great point of
The retort of the furmity-woman before the magistrates had
spread; and in four-and-twenty hours there was not a person
in Casterbridge who remained unacquainted with the story of
Henchard's mad freak at Weydon-Priors Fair, long years
before. The amends he had made in after life were lost
sight of in the dramatic glare of the original act. Had the
incident been well known of old and always, it might by this
time have grown to be lightly regarded as the rather tall
wild oat, but well-nigh the single one, of a young man with
whom the steady and mature (if somewhat headstrong) burgher
of to-day had scarcely a point in common. But the act
having lain as dead and buried ever since, the interspace of
years was unperceived; and the black spot of his youth wore
the aspect of a recent crime.
Small as the police-court incident had been in itself, it
formed the edge or turn in the incline of Henchard's
fortunes. On that day--almost at that minute--he passed the
ridge of prosperity and honour, and began to descend rapidly
on the other side. It was strange how soon he sank in
esteem. Socially he had received a startling fillip
downwards; and, having already lost commercial buoyancy from
rash transactions, the velocity of his descent in both
aspects became accelerated every hour.
He now gazed more at the pavements and less at the housefronts
when he walked about; more at the feet and leggings
of men, and less into the pupils of their eyes with the
blazing regard which formerly had made them blink.
New events combined to undo him. It had been a bad year for
others besides himself, and the heavy failure of a debtor
whom he had trusted generously completed the overthrow of
his tottering credit. And now, in his desperation, he
failed to preserve that strict correspondence between bulk
and sample which is the soul of commerce in grain. For
this, one of his men was mainly to blame; that worthy, in
his great unwisdom, having picked over the sample of an
enormous quantity of second-rate corn which Henchard had in
hand, and removed the pinched, blasted, and smutted grains
in great numbers. The produce if honestly offered would
have created no scandal; but the blunder of
misrepresentation, coming at such a moment, dragged
Henchard's name into the ditch.
The details of his failure were of the ordinary kind. One
day Elizabeth-Jane was passing the King's Arms, when she saw
people bustling in and out more than usual where there was
no market. A bystander informed her, with some surprise at
her ignorance, that it was a meeting of the Commissioners
under Mr. Henchard's bankruptcy. She felt quite tearful,
and when she heard that he was present in the hotel she
wished to go in and see him, but was advised not to intrude
that day.
The room in which debtor and creditors had assembled was a
front one, and Henchard, looking out of the window, had
caught sight of Elizabeth-Jane through the wire blind. His
examination had closed, and the creditors were leaving. The
appearance of Elizabeth threw him into a reverie, till,
turning his face from the window, and towering above all the
rest, he called their attention for a moment more. His
countenance had somewhat changed from its flush of
prosperity; the black hair and whiskers were the same as
ever, but a film of ash was over the rest.
"Gentlemen," he said, "over and above the assets that we've
been talking about, and that appear on the balance-sheet,
there be these. It all belongs to ye, as much as everything
else I've got, and I don't wish to keep it from you, not I."
Saying this, he took his gold watch from his pocket and laid
it on the table; then his purse--the yellow canvas moneybag,
such as was carried by all farmers and dealers--untying
it, and shaking the money out upon the table beside the
watch. The latter he drew back quickly for an instant, to
remove the hair-guard made and given him by Lucetta.
"There, now you have all I've got in the world," he said.
"And I wish for your sakes 'twas more."
The creditors, farmers almost to a man, looked at the watch,
and at the money, and into the street; when Farmer James
Everdene of Weatherbury spoke.
"No, no, Henchard," he said warmly. "We don't want that.
'Tis honourable in ye; but keep it. What do you say,
neighbours--do ye agree?"
"Ay, sure: we don't wish it at all," said Grower, another
"Let him keep it, of course," murmured another in the
background--a silent, reserved young man named Boldwood; and
the rest responded unanimously.
"Well," said the senior Commissioner, addressing Henchard,
"though the case is a desperate one, I am bound to admit
that I have never met a debtor who behaved more fairly.
I've proved the balance-sheet to be as honestly made out as
it could possibly be; we have had no trouble; there have
been no evasions and no concealments. The rashness of
dealing which led to this unhappy situation is obvious
enough; but as far as I can see every attempt has been made
to avoid wronging anybody."
Henchard was more affected by this than he cared to let them
perceive, and he turned aside to the window again. A
general murmur of agreement followed the Commissioner's
words, and the meeting dispersed. When they were gone
Henchard regarded the watch they had returned to him.
"'Tisn't mine by rights," he said to himself. "Why the
devil didn't they take it?--I don't want what don't belong
to me!" Moved by a recollection he took the watch to the
maker's just opposite, sold it there and then for what the
tradesman offered, and went with the proceeds to one among
the smaller of his creditors, a cottager of Durnover in
straitened circumstances, to whom he handed the money.
When everything was ticketed that Henchard had owned, and
the auctions were in progress, there was quite a sympathetic
reaction in the town, which till then for some time past had
done nothing but condemn him. Now that Henchard's whole
career was pictured distinctly to his neighbours, and they
could see how admirably he had used his one talent of energy
to create a position of affluence out of absolutely nothing--
which was really all he could show when he came to the town
as a journeyman hay-trusser, with his wimble and knife in
his basket--they wondered and regretted his fall.
Try as she might, Elizabeth could never meet with him. She
believed in him still, though nobody else did; and she
wanted to be allowed to forgive him for his roughness to
her, and to help him in his trouble.
She wrote to him; he did not reply. She then went to his
house--the great house she had lived in so happily for a
time--with its front of dun brick, vitrified here and there
and its heavy sash-bars--but Henchard was to be found there
no more. The ex-Mayor had left the home of his prosperity,
and gone into Jopp's cottage by the Priory Mill--the sad
purlieu to which he had wandered on the night of his
discovery that she was not his daughter. Thither she went.
Elizabeth thought it odd that he had fixed on this spot to
retire to, but assumed that necessity had no choice. Trees
which seemed old enough to have been planted by the friars
still stood around, and the back hatch of the original mill
yet formed a cascade which had raised its terrific roar for
centuries. The cottage itself was built of old stones from
the long dismantled Priory, scraps of tracery, moulded
window-jambs, and arch-labels, being mixed in with the
rubble of the walls.
In this cottage he occupied a couple of rooms, Jopp, whom
Henchard had employed, abused, cajoled, and dismissed by
turns, being the householder. But even here her stepfather
could not be seen.
"Not by his daughter?" pleaded Elizabeth.
"By nobody--at present: that's his order," she was informed.
Afterwards she was passing by the corn-stores and hay-barns
which had been the headquarters of his business. She knew
that he ruled there no longer; but it was with amazement
that she regarded the familiar gateway. A smear of decisive
lead-coloured paint had been laid on to obliterate
Henchard's name, though its letters dimly loomed through
like ships in a fog. Over these, in fresh white, spread the
name of Farfrae.
Abel Whittle was edging his skeleton in at the wicket, and
she said, "Mr. Farfrae is master here?"
"Yaas, Miss Henchet," he said, "Mr. Farfrae have bought the
concern and all of we work-folk with it; and 'tis better for
us than 'twas--though I shouldn't say that to you as a
daughter-law. We work harder, but we bain't made afeard
now. It was fear made my few poor hairs so thin! No busting
out, no slamming of doors, no meddling with yer eternal soul
and all that; and though 'tis a shilling a week less I'm the
richer man; for what's all the world if yer mind is always
in a larry, Miss Henchet?"
The intelligence was in a general sense true; and Henchard's
stores, which had remained in a paralyzed condition during
the settlement of his bankruptcy, were stirred into activity
again when the new tenant had possession. Thenceforward the
full sacks, looped with the shining chain, went scurrying up
and down under the cat-head, hairy arms were thrust out from
the different door-ways, and the grain was hauled in;
trusses of hay were tossed anew in and out of the barns, and
the wimbles creaked; while the scales and steel-yards began
to be busy where guess-work had formerly been the rule.
Two bridges stood near the lower part of Casterbridge town.
The first, of weather-stained brick, was immediately at the
end of High Street, where a diverging branch from that
thoroughfare ran round to the low-lying Durnover lanes; so
that the precincts of the bridge formed the merging point of
respectability and indigence. The second bridge, of stone,
was further out on the highway--in fact, fairly in the
meadows, though still within the town boundary.
These bridges had speaking countenances. Every projection
in each was worn down to obtuseness, partly by weather, more
by friction from generations of loungers, whose toes and
heels had from year to year made restless movements against
these parapets, as they had stood there meditating on the
aspect of affairs. In the case of the more friable bricks
and stones even the flat faces were worn into hollows by the
same mixed mechanism. The masonry of the top was clamped
with iron at each joint; since it had been no uncommon thing
for desperate men to wrench the coping off and throw it down
the river, in reckless defiance of the magistrates.
For to this pair of bridges gravitated all the failures of
the town; those who had failed in business, in love, in
sobriety, in crime. Why the unhappy hereabout usually chose
the bridges for their meditations in preference to a
railing, a gate, or a stile, was not so clear.
There was a marked difference of quality between the
personages who haunted the near bridge of brick and the
personages who haunted the far one of stone. Those of
lowest character preferred the former, adjoining the town;
they did not mind the glare of the public eye. They had
been of comparatively no account during their successes; and
though they might feel dispirited, they had no particular
sense of shame in their ruin. Their hands were mostly kept
in their pockets; they wore a leather strap round their hips
or knees, and boots that required a great deal of lacing,
but seemed never to get any. Instead of sighing at their
adversities they spat, and instead of saying the iron had
entered into their souls they said they were down on their
luck. Jopp in his time of distress had often stood here; so
had Mother Cuxsom, Christopher Coney, and poor Abel Whittle.
The miserables who would pause on the remoter bridge
were of a politer stamp. They included bankrupts,
hypochondriacs, persons who were what is called "out of a
situation" from fault or lucklessness, the inefficient of
the professional class--shabby-genteel men, who did not know
how to get rid of the weary time between breakfast and
dinner, and the yet more weary time between dinner and dark.
The eye of this species were mostly directed over the
parapet upon the running water below. A man seen there
looking thus fixedly into the river was pretty sure to be
one whom the world did not treat kindly for some reason or
other. While one in straits on the townward bridge did not
mind who saw him so, and kept his back to the parapet to
survey the passers-by, one in straits on this never faced
the road, never turned his head at coming footsteps, but,
sensitive to his own condition, watched the current whenever
a stranger approached, as if some strange fish interested
him, though every finned thing had been poached out of the
river years before.
There and thus they would muse; if their grief were the
grief of oppression they would wish themselves kings; if
their grief were poverty, wish themselves millionaires; if
sin, they would wish they were saints or angels; if despised
love, that they were some much-courted Adonis of county
fame. Some had been known to stand and think so long with
this fixed gaze downward that eventually they had allowed
their poor carcases to follow that gaze; and they were
discovered the next morning out of reach of their troubles,
either here or in the deep pool called Blackwater, a little
higher up the river.
To this bridge came Henchard, as other unfortunates had come
before him, his way thither being by the riverside path on
the chilly edge of the town. Here he was standing one windy
afternoon when Durnover church clock struck five. While the
gusts were bringing the notes to his ears across the damp
intervening flat a man passed behind him and greeted
Henchard by name. Henchard turned slightly and saw that the
corner was Jopp, his old foreman, now employed elsewhere, to
whom, though he hated him, he had gone for lodgings because
Jopp was the one man in Casterbridge whose observation and
opinion the fallen corn-merchant despised to the point of
Henchard returned him a scarcely perceptible nod, and Jopp
"He and she are gone into their new house to-day," said
"Oh," said Henchard absently. "Which house is that?"
"Your old one."
"Gone into my house?" And starting up Henchard added, "
MY house of all others in the town!"
"Well, as somebody was sure to live there, and you couldn't,
it can do 'ee no harm that he's the man."
It was quite true: he felt that it was doing him no harm.
Farfrae, who had already taken the yards and stores, had
acquired possession of the house for the obvious convenience
of its contiguity. And yet this act of his taking up
residence within those roomy chambers while he, their former
tenant, lived in a cottage, galled Henchard indescribably.
Jopp continued: "And you heard of that fellow who bought all
the best furniture at your sale? He was bidding for no other
than Farfrae all the while! It has never been moved out of
the house, as he'd already got the lease."
"My furniture too! Surely he'll buy my body and soul
"There's no saying he won't, if you be willing to sell." And
having planted these wounds in the heart of his once
imperious master Jopp went on his way; while Henchard stared
and stared into the racing river till the bridge seemed
moving backward with him.
The low land grew blacker, and the sky a deeper grey, When
the landscape looked like a picture blotted in with ink,
another traveller approached the great stone bridge. He was
driving a gig, his direction being also townwards. On the
round of the middle of the arch the gig stopped. "Mr
Henchard?" came from it in the voice of Farfrae. Henchard
turned his face.
Finding that he had guessed rightly Farfrae told the man who
accompanied him to drive home; while he alighted and went up
to his former friend.
"I have heard that you think of emigrating, Mr. Henchard?"
he said. "Is it true? I have a real reason for asking."
Henchard withheld his answer for several instants, and then
said, "Yes; it is true. I am going where you were going to
a few years ago, when I prevented you and got you to bide
here. 'Tis turn and turn about, isn't it! Do ye mind how we
stood like this in the Chalk Walk when I persuaded 'ee to
stay? You then stood without a chattel to your name, and I
was the master of the house in corn Street. But now I stand
without a stick or a rag, and the master of that house is
"Yes, yes; that's so! It's the way o' the warrld," said
"Ha, ha, true!" cried Henchard, throwing himself into a mood
of jocularity. "Up and down! I'm used to it. What's the
odds after all!"
"Now listen to me, if it's no taking up your time," said
Farfrae, "just as I listened to you. Don't go. Stay at
"But I can do nothing else, man!" said Henchard scornfully.
"The little money I have will just keep body and soul
together for a few weeks, and no more. I have not felt
inclined to go back to journey-work yet; but I can't stay
doing nothing, and my best chance is elsewhere."
"No; but what I propose is this--if ye will listen. Come
and live in your old house. We can spare some rooms very
well--I am sure my wife would not mind it at all--until
there's an opening for ye."
Henchard started. Probably the picture drawn by the
unsuspecting Donald of himself under the same roof with
Lucetta was too striking to be received with equanimity.
"No, no," he said gruffly; "we should quarrel."
"You should hae a part to yourself," said Farfrae; "and
nobody to interfere wi' you. It will be a deal healthier
than down there by the river where you live now."
Still Henchard refused. "You don't know what you ask," he
said. "However, I can do no less than thank 'ee."
They walked into the town together side by side, as they had
done when Henchard persuaded the young Scotchman to remain.
"Will you come in and have some supper?" said Farfrae when
they reached the middle of the town, where their paths
diverged right and left.
"No, no."
"By-the-bye, I had nearly forgot. I bought a good deal of
your furniture.
"So I have heard."
"Well, it was no that I wanted it so very much for myself;
but I wish ye to pick out all that you care to have--such
things as may be endeared to ye by associations, or
particularly suited to your use. And take them to your own
house--it will not be depriving me, we can do with less very
well, and I will have plenty of opportunities of getting
"What--give it to me for nothing?" said Henchard. "But you
paid the creditors for it!"
"Ah, yes; but maybe it's worth more to you than it is to
Henchard was a little moved. "I--sometimes think I've
wronged 'ee!" he said, in tones which showed the disquietude
that the night shades hid in his face. He shook Farfrae
abruptly by the hand, and hastened away as if unwilling to
betray himself further. Farfrae saw him turn through the
thoroughfare into Bull Stake and vanish down towards the
Priory Mill.
Meanwhile Elizabeth-Jane, in an upper room no larger than
the Prophet's chamber, and with the silk attire of her palmy
days packed away in a box, was netting with great industry
between the hours which she devoted to studying such books
as she could get hold of.
Her lodgings being nearly opposite her stepfather's former
residence, now Farfrae's, she could see Donald and Lucetta
speeding in and out of their door with all the bounding
enthusiasm of their situation. She avoided looking that way
as much as possible, but it was hardly in human nature to
keep the eyes averted when the door slammed.
While living on thus quietly she heard the news that
Henchard had caught cold and was confined to his room--
possibly a result of standing about the meads in damp
weather. She went off to his house at once. This time she
was determined not to be denied admittance, and made her way
upstairs. He was sitting up in the bed with a greatcoat
round him, and at first resented her intrusion. "Go away--
go away," he said. "I don't like to see 'ee!"
"But, father--"
"I don't like to see 'ee," he repeated.
However, the ice was broken, and she remained. She made the
room more comfortable, gave directions to the people below,
and by the time she went away had reconciled her stepfather
to her visiting him.
The effect, either of her ministrations or of her mere
presence, was a rapid recovery. He soon was well enough to
go out; and now things seemed to wear a new colour in his
eyes. He no longer thought of emigration, and thought more
of Elizabeth. The having nothing to do made him more dreary
than any other circumstance; and one day, with better views
of Farfrae than he had held for some time, and a sense that
honest work was not a thing to be ashamed of, he stoically
went down to Farfrae's yard and asked to be taken on as a
journeyman hay-trusser. He was engaged at once. This
hiring of Henchard was done through a foreman, Farfrae
feeling that it was undesirable to come personally in
contact with the ex-corn-factor more than was absolutely
necessary. While anxious to help him he was well aware by
this time of his uncertain temper, and thought reserved
relations best. For the same reason his orders to Henchard
to proceed to this and that country farm trussing in the
usual way were always given through a third person.
For a time these arrangements worked well, it being the
custom to truss in the respective stack-yards, before
bringing it away, the hay bought at the different farms
about the neighbourhood; so that Henchard was often absent
at such places the whole week long. When this was all done,
and Henchard had become in a measure broken in, he came to
work daily on the home premises like the rest. And thus the
once flourishing merchant and Mayor and what not stood as a
day-labourer in the barns and granaries he formerly had
"I have worked as a journeyman before now, ha'n't I?" he
would say in his defiant way; "and why shouldn't I do it
again?" But he looked a far different journeyman from the
one he had been in his earlier days. Then he had worn
clean, suitable clothes, light and cheerful in hue; leggings
yellow as marigolds, corduroys immaculate as new flax, and a
neckerchief like a flower-garden. Now he wore the remains
of an old blue cloth suit of his gentlemanly times, a rusty
silk hat, and a once black satin stock, soiled and shabby.
Clad thus he went to and fro, still comparatively an active
man--for he was not much over forty--and saw with the other
men in the yard Donald Farfrae going in and out the green
door that led to the garden, and the big house, and Lucetta.
At the beginning of the winter it was rumoured about
Casterbridge that Mr. Farfrae, already in the Town Council,
was to be proposed for Mayor in a year or two.
"Yes, she was wise, she was wise in her generation!" said
Henchard to himself when he heard of this one day on his way
to Farfrae's hay-barn. He thought it over as he wimbled his
bonds, and the piece of news acted as a reviviscent breath
to that old view of his--of Donald Farfrae as his triumphant
rival who rode rough-shod over him.
"A fellow of his age going to be Mayor, indeed!" he murmured
with a corner-drawn smile on his mouth. "But 'tis her money
that floats en upward. Ha-ha--how cust odd it is! Here be
I, his former master, working for him as man, and he the man
standing as master, with my house and my furniture and my
what-you-may-call wife all his own."
He repeated these things a hundred times a day. During the
whole period of his acquaintance with Lucetta he had never
wished to claim her as his own so desperately as he now
regretted her loss. It was no mercenary hankering after her
fortune that moved him, though that fortune had been the
means of making her so much the more desired by giving her
the air of independence and sauciness which attracts men of
his composition. It had given her servants, house, and fine
clothing--a setting that invested Lucetta with a startling
novelty in the eyes of him who had known her in her narrow
He accordingly lapsed into moodiness, and at every allusion
to the possibility of Farfrae's near election to the
municipal chair his former hatred of the Scotchman returned.
Concurrently with this he underwent a moral change. It
resulted in his significantly saying every now and then, in
tones of recklessness, "Only a fortnight more!"--"Only a
dozen days!" and so forth, lessening his figures day by day.
"Why d'ye say only a dozen days?" asked Solomon Longways as
he worked beside Henchard in the granary weighing oats.
"Because in twelve days I shall be released from my oath."
"What oath?"
"The oath to drink no spirituous liquid. In twelve days it
will be twenty-one years since I swore it, and then I mean
to enjoy myself, please God!"
Elizabeth-Jane sat at her window one Sunday, and while there
she heard in the street below a conversation which
introduced Henchard's name. She was wondering what was the
matter, when a third person who was passing by asked the
question in her mind.
"Michael Henchard have busted out drinking after taking
nothing for twenty-one years!"
Elizabeth-Jane jumped up, put on her things, and went out.
At this date there prevailed in Casterbridge a convivial
custom--scarcely recognized as such, yet none the less
established. On the afternoon of every Sunday a large
contingent of the Casterbridge journeymen--steady churchgoers
and sedate characters--having attended service, filed
from the church doors across the way to the Three Mariners
Inn. The rear was usually brought up by the choir, with
their bass-viols, fiddles, and flutes under their arms.
The great point, the point of honour, on these sacred
occasions was for each man to strictly limit himself to
half-a-pint of liquor. This scrupulosity was so well
understood by the landlord that the whole company was served
in cups of that measure. They were all exactly alike--
straight-sided, with two leafless lime-trees done in eelbrown
on the sides--one towards the drinker's lips, the
other confronting his comrade. To wonder how many of these
cups the landlord possessed altogether was a favourite
exercise of children in the marvellous. Forty at least
might have been seen at these times in the large room,
forming a ring round the margin of the great sixteen-legged
oak table, like the monolithic circle of Stonehenge in its
pristine days. Outside and above the forty cups came a
circle of forty smoke-jets from forty clay pipes; outside
the pipes the countenances of the forty church-goers,
supported at the back by a circle of forty chairs.
The conversation was not the conversation of week-days, but
a thing altogether finer in point and higher in tone. They
invariably discussed the sermon, dissecting it, weighing it,
as above or below the average--the general tendency being to
regard it as a scientific feat or performance which had no
relation to their own lives, except as between critics and
the thing criticized. The bass-viol player and the clerk
usually spoke with more authority than the rest on account
of their official connection with the preacher.
Now the Three Mariners was the inn chosen by Henchard as the
place for closing his long term of dramless years. He had
so timed his entry as to be well established in the large
room by the time the forty church-goers entered to their
customary cups. The flush upon his face proclaimed at once
that the vow of twenty-one years had lapsed, and the era of
recklessness begun anew. He was seated on a small table,
drawn up to the side of the massive oak board reserved for
the churchmen, a few of whom nodded to him as they took
their places and said, "How be ye, Mr. Henchard? Quite a
stranger here."
Henchard did not take the trouble to reply for a few
moments, and his eyes rested on his stretched-out legs and
boots. "Yes," he said at length; "that's true. I've been
down in spirit for weeks; some of ye know the cause. I am
better now, but not quite serene. I want you fellows of the
choir to strike up a tune; and what with that and this brew
of Stannidge's, I am in hopes of getting altogether out of
my minor key."
"With all my heart," said the first fiddle. "We've let back
our strings, that's true, but we can soon pull 'em up again.
Sound A, neighbours, and give the man a stave."
"I don't care a curse what the words be," said Henchard.
"Hymns, ballets, or rantipole rubbish; the Rogue's March or
the cherubim's warble--'tis all the same to me if 'tis good
harmony, and well put out."
"Well--heh, heh--it may be we can do that, and not a man
among us that have sat in the gallery less than twenty
year," said the leader of the band. "As 'tis Sunday,
neighbours, suppose we raise the Fourth Psa'am, to Samuel
Wakely's tune, as improved by me?"
"Hang Samuel Wakely's tune, as improved by thee!" said
Henchard. "Chuck across one of your psalters--old Wiltshire
is the only tune worth singing--the psalm-tune that would
make my blood ebb and flow like the sea when I was a steady
chap. I'll find some words to fit en." He took one of the
psalters and began turning over the leaves.
Chancing to look out of the window at that moment he saw a
flock of people passing by, and perceived them to be the
congregation of the upper church, now just dismissed, their
sermon having been a longer one than that the lower parish
was favoured with. Among the rest of the leading
inhabitants walked Mr. Councillor Farfrae with Lucetta upon
his arm, the observed and imitated of all the smaller
tradesmen's womankind. Henchard's mouth changed a little,
and he continued to turn over the leaves.
"Now then," he said, "Psalm the Hundred-and-Ninth, to the
tune of Wiltshire: verses ten to fifteen. I gi'e ye the
"His seed shall orphans be, his wife
A widow plunged in grief;
His vagrant children beg their bread
Where none can give relief.
His ill-got riches shall be made
To usurers a prey;
The fruit of all his toil shall be
By strangers borne away.
None shall be found that to his wants
Their mercy will extend,
Or to his helpless orphan seed
The least assistance lend.
A swift destruction soon shall seize
On his unhappy race;
And the next age his hated name
Shall utterly deface."
"I know the Psa'am--I know the Psa'am!" said the leader
hastily; "but I would as lief not sing it. 'Twasn't made
for singing. We chose it once when the gipsy stole the
pa'son's mare, thinking to please him, but pa'son were quite
upset. Whatever Servant David were thinking about when he
made a Psalm that nobody can sing without disgracing
himself, I can't fathom! Now then, the Fourth Psalm, to
Samuel Wakely's tune, as improved by me."
"'Od seize your sauce--I tell ye to sing the Hundred-and-
Ninth to Wiltshire, and sing it you shall!" roared Henchard.
"Not a single one of all the droning crew of ye goes out of
this room till that Psalm is sung!" He slipped off the
table, seized the poker, and going to the door placed his
back against it. "Now then, go ahead, if you don't wish to
have your cust pates broke!"
"Don't 'ee, don't'ee take on so!--As 'tis the Sabbath-day,
and 'tis Servant David's words and not ours, perhaps we
don't mind for once, hey?" said one of the terrified choir,
looking round upon the rest. So the instruments were tuned
and the comminatory verses sung.
"Thank ye, thank ye," said Henchard in a softened voice, his
eyes growing downcast, and his manner that of a man much
moved by the strains. "Don't you blame David," he went on
in low tones, shaking his head without raising his eyes.
"He knew what he was about when he wrote that!...If I could
afford it, be hanged if I wouldn't keep a church choir at my
own expense to play and sing to me at these low, dark times
of my life. But the bitter thing is, that when I was rich I
didn't need what I could have, and now I be poor I can't
have what I need!"
While they paused, Lucetta and Farfrae passed again, this
time homeward, it being their custom to take, like others, a
short walk out on the highway and back, between church and
tea-time. "There's the man we've been singing about," said
The players and singers turned their heads and saw his
meaning. "Heaven forbid!" said the bass-player.
"'Tis the man," repeated Henchard doggedly.
"Then if I'd known," said the performer on the clarionet
solemnly, "that 'twas meant for a living man, nothing should
have drawn out of my wynd-pipe the breath for that Psalm, so
help me!
"Nor from mine," said the first singer. "But, thought I, as
it was made so long ago perhaps there isn't much in it, so
I'll oblige a neighbour; for there's nothing to be said
against the tune."
"Ah, my boys, you've sung it," said Henchard triumphantly.
"As for him, it was partly by his songs that he got over me,
and heaved me out....I could double him up like that--and
yet I don't." He laid the poker across his knee, bent it as
if it were a twig, flung it down, and came away from the
It was at this time that Elizabeth-Jane, having heard where
her stepfather was, entered the room with a pale and
agonized countenance. The choir and the rest of the company
moved off, in accordance with their half-pint regulation.
Elizabeth-Jane went up to Henchard, and entreated him to
accompany her home.
By this hour the volcanic fires of his nature had burnt
down, and having drunk no great quantity as yet he was
inclined to acquiesce. She took his arm, and together they
went on. Henchard walked blankly, like a blind man,
repeating to himself the last words of the singers--
"And the next age his hated name
Shall utterly deface."
At length he said to her, "I am a man to my word. I have
kept my oath for twenty-one years; and now I can drink with
a good conscience....If I don't do for him--well, I am a
fearful practical joker when I choose! He has taken away
everything from me, and by heavens, if I meet him I won't
answer for my deeds!"
These half-uttered words alarmed Elizabeth--all the more by
reason of the still determination of Henchard's mien.
"What will you do?" she asked cautiously, while trembling
with disquietude, and guessing Henchard's allusion only too
Henchard did not answer, and they went on till they had
reached his cottage. "May I come in?" she said.
"No, no; not to-day," said Henchard; and she went away;
feeling that to caution Farfrae was almost her duty, as it
was certainly her strong desire.
As on the Sunday, so on the week-days, Farfrae and Lucetta
might have been seen flitting about the town like two
butterflies--or rather like a bee and a butterfly in league
for life. She seemed to take no pleasure in going anywhere
except in her husband's company; and hence when business
would not permit him to waste an afternoon she remained
indoors waiting for the time to pass till his return, her
face being visible to Elizabeth-Jane from her window aloft.
The latter, however, did not say to herself that Farfrae
should be thankful for such devotion, but, full of her
reading, she cited Rosalind's exclamation: "Mistress, know
yourself; down on your knees and thank Heaven fasting for a
good man's love."
She kept her eye upon Henchard also. One day he answered
her inquiry for his health by saying that he could not
endure Abel Whittle's pitying eyes upon him while they
worked together in the yard. "He is such a fool," said
Henchard, "that he can never get out of his mind the time
when I was master there."
"I'll come and wimble for you instead of him, if you will
allow me," said she. Her motive on going to the yard was to
get an opportunity of observing the general position of
affairs on Farfrae's premises now that her stepfather was a
workman there. Henchard's threats had alarmed her so much
that she wished to see his behaviour when the two were face
to face.
For two or three days after her arrival Donald did not make
any appearance. Then one afternoon the green door opened,
and through came, first Farfrae, and at his heels Lucetta.
Donald brought his wife forward without hesitation, it being
obvious that he had no suspicion whatever of any antecedents
in common between her and the now journeyman hay-trusser.
Henchard did not turn his eyes toward either of the pair,
keeping them fixed on the bond he twisted, as if that alone
absorbed him. A feeling of delicacy, which ever prompted
Farfrae to avoid anything that might seem like triumphing
over a fallen rivel, led him to keep away from the hay-barn
where Henchard and his daughter were working, and to go on
to the corn department. Meanwhile Lucetta, never having
been informed that Henchard had entered her husband's
service, rambled straight on to the barn, where she came
suddenly upon Henchard, and gave vent to a little "Oh!"
which the happy and busy Donald was too far off to hear.
Henchard, with withering humility of demeanour, touched the
brim of his hat to her as Whittle and the rest had done, to
which she breathed a dead-alive "Good afternoon."
"I beg your pardon, ma'am?" said Henchard, as if he had not
"I said good afternoon," she faltered.
"O yes, good afternoon, ma'am," he replied, touching his hat
again. "I am glad to see you, ma'am." Lucetta looked
embarrassed, and Henchard continued: "For we humble workmen
here feel it a great honour that a lady should look in and
take an interest in us."
She glanced at him entreatingly; the sarcasm was too bitter,
too unendurable.
"Can you tell me the time, ma'am?" he asked.
"Yes," she said hastily; "half-past four."
"Thank 'ee. An hour and a half longer before we are
released from work. Ah, ma'am, we of the lower classes know
nothing of the gay leisure that such as you enjoy!"
As soon as she could do so Lucetta left him, nodded and
smiled to Elizabeth-Jane, and joined her husband at the
other end of the enclosure, where she could be seen leading
him away by the outer gates, so as to avoid passing Henchard
again. That she had been taken by surprise was obvious.
The result of this casual rencounter was that the next
morning a note was put into Henchard's hand by the postman.
"Will you," said Lucetta, with as much bitterness as she
could put into a small communication, "will you kindly
undertake not to speak to me in the biting undertones you
used to-day, if I walk through the yard at any time? I bear
you no ill-will, and I am only too glad that you should have
employment of my dear husband; but in common fairness treat
me as his wife, and do not try to make me wretched by covert
sneers. I have committed no crime, and done you no injury.
"Poor fool!" said Henchard with fond savagery, holding out
the note. "To know no better than commit herself in writing
like this! Why, if I were to show that to her dear husband--
pooh!" He threw the letter into the fire.
Lucetta took care not to come again among the hay and corn.
She would rather have died than run the risk of encountering
Henchard at such close quarters a second time. The gulf
between them was growing wider every day. Farfrae was
always considerate to his fallen acquaintance; but it was
impossible that he should not, by degrees, cease to regard
the ex-corn-merchant as more than one of his other workmen.
Henchard saw this, and concealed his feelings under a cover
of stolidity, fortifying his heart by drinking more freely
at the Three Mariners every evening.
Often did Elizabeth-Jane, in her endeavours to prevent his
taking other liquor, carry tea to him in a little basket at
five o'clock. Arriving one day on this errand she found her
stepfather was measuring up clover-seed and rape-seed in the
corn-stores on the top floor, and she ascended to him. Each
floor had a door opening into the air under a cat-head, from
which a chain dangled for hoisting the sacks.
When Elizabeth's head rose through the trap she perceived
that the upper door was open, and that her stepfather and
Farfrae stood just within it in conversation, Farfrae being
nearest the dizzy edge, and Henchard a little way behind.
Not to interrupt them she remained on the steps without
raising her head any higher. While waiting thus she saw--or
fancied she saw, for she had a terror of feeling certain--
her stepfather slowly raise his hand to a level behind
Farfrae's shoulders, a curious expression taking possession
of his face. The young man was quite unconscious of the
action, which was so indirect that, if Farfrae had observed
it, he might almost have regarded it as an idle
outstretching of the arm. But it would have been possible,
by a comparatively light touch, to push Farfrae off his
balance, and send him head over heels into the air.
Elizabeth felt quite sick at heart on thinking of what this
MIGHT have meant. As soon as they turned she
mechanically took the tea to Henchard, left it, and went
away. Reflecting, she endeavoured to assure herself that
the movement was an idle eccentricity, and no more. Yet, on
the other hand, his subordinate position in an establishment
where he once had been master might be acting on him like an
irritant poison; and she finally resolved to caution Donald.
Next morning, accordingly, she rose at five o'clock and went
into the street. It was not yet light; a dense fog
prevailed, and the town was as silent as it was dark, except
that from the rectangular avenues which framed in the
borough there came a chorus of tiny rappings, caused by the
fall of water-drops condensed on the boughs; now it was
wafted from the West Walk, now from the South Walk; and then
from both quarters simultaneously. She moved on to the
bottom of corn Street, and, knowing his time well, waited
only a few minutes before she heard the familiar bang of his
door, and then his quick walk towards her. She met him at
the point where the last tree of the engirding avenue
flanked the last house in the street.
He could hardly discern her till, glancing inquiringly, he
said, "What--Miss Henchard--and are ye up so airly?"
She asked him to pardon her for waylaying him at such an
unseemly time. "But I am anxious to mention something," she
said. "And I wished not to alarm Mrs. Farfrae by calling."
"Yes?" said he, with the cheeriness of a superior. "And
what may it be? It's very kind of ye, I'm sure."
She now felt the difficulty of conveying to his mind the
exact aspect of possibilities in her own. But she somehow
began, and introduced Henchard's name. "I sometimes fear,"
she said with an effort, "that he may be betrayed into some
attempt to--insult you, sir.
"But we are the best of friends?"
"Or to play some practical joke upon you, sir. Remember
that he has been hardly used."
"But we are quite friendly?"
"Or to do something--that would injure you--hurt you--wound
you." Every word cost her twice its length of pain. And she
could see that Farfrae was still incredulous. Henchard, a
poor man in his employ, was not to Farfrae's view the
Henchard who had ruled him. Yet he was not only the same
man, but that man with his sinister qualities, formerly
latent, quickened into life by his buffetings.
Farfrae, happy, and thinking no evil, persisted in making
light of her fears. Thus they parted, and she went
homeward, journeymen now being in the street, waggoners
going to the harness-makers for articles left to be
repaired, farm-horses going to the shoeing-smiths, and the
sons of labour showing themselves generally on the move.
Elizabeth entered her lodging unhappily, thinking she had
done no good, and only made herself appear foolish by her
weak note of warning.
But Donald Farfrae was one of those men upon whom an
incident is never absolutely lost. He revised impressions
from a subsequent point of view, and the impulsive judgment
of the moment was not always his permanent one. The vision
of Elizabeth's earnest face in the rimy dawn came back to
him several times during the day. Knowing the solidity of
her character he did not treat her hints altogether as idle
But he did not desist from a kindly scheme on Henchard's
account that engaged him just then; and when he met Lawyer
Joyce, the town-clerk, later in the day, he spoke of it as
if nothing had occurred to damp it.
"About that little seedsman's shop," he said, "the shop
overlooking the churchyard, which is to let. It is not for
myself I want it, but for our unlucky fellow-townsman
Henchard. It would be a new beginning for him, if a small
one; and I have told the Council that I would head a private
subscription among them to set him up in it--that I would be
fifty pounds, if they would make up the other fifty among
"Yes, yes; so I've heard; and there's nothing to say against
it for that matter," the town-clerk replied, in his plain,
frank way. "But, Farfrae, others see what you don't.
Henchard hates 'ee--ay, hates 'ee; and 'tis right that you
should know it. To my knowledge he was at the Three
Mariners last night, saying in public that about you which a
man ought not to say about another."
"Is that so--ah, is that so?" said Farfrae, looking down.
"Why should he do it?" added the young man bitterly; "what
harm have I done him that he should try to wrong me?"
"God only knows," said Joyce, lifting his eyebrows. "It
shows much long-suffering in you to put up with him, and
keep him in your employ."
"But I cannet discharge a man who was once a good friend to
me. How can I forget that when I came here 'twas he enabled
me to make a footing for mysel'? No, no. As long as I've a
day's work to offer he shall do it if he chooses. 'Tis not
I who will deny him such a little as that. But I'll drop
the idea of establishing him in a shop till I can think more
about it."
It grieved Farfrae much to give up this scheme. But a damp
having been thrown over it by these and other voices in the
air, he went and countermanded his orders. The then
occupier of the shop was in it when Farfrae spoke to him and
feeling it necessary to give some explanation of his
withdrawal from the negotiation Donald mentioned Henchard's
name, and stated that the intentions of the Council had been
The occupier was much disappointed, and straight-way
informed Henchard, as soon as he saw him, that a scheme of
the Council for setting him up in a shop had been knocked on
the head by Farfrae. And thus out of error enmity grew.
When Farfrae got indoors that evening the tea-kettle was
singing on the high hob of the semi-egg-shaped grate.
Lucetta, light as a sylph, ran forward and seized his hands,
whereupon Farfrae duly kissed her.
"Oh!" she cried playfully, turning to the window. "See--the
blinds are not drawn down, and the people can look in--what
a scandal!"
When the candles were lighted, the curtains drawn, and the
twain sat at tea, she noticed that he looked serious.
Without directly inquiring why she let her eyes linger
solicitously on his face.
"Who has called?" he absently asked. "Any folk for me?"
"No," said Lucetta. "What's the matter, Donald?"
"Well--nothing worth talking of," he responded sadly.
"Then, never mind it. You will get through it, Scotchmen
are always lucky."
"No--not always!" he said, shaking his head gloomily as he
contemplated a crumb on the table. "I know many who have
not been so! There was Sandy Macfarlane, who started to
America to try his fortune, and he was drowned; and
Archibald Leith, he was murdered! And poor Willie Dunbleeze
and Maitland Macfreeze--they fell into bad courses, and went
the way of all such!"
"Why--you old goosey--I was only speaking in a general
sense, of course! You are always so literal. Now when we
have finished tea, sing me that funny song about high-heeled
shoon and siller tags, and the one-and-forty wooers."
"No, no. I couldna sing to-night! It's Henchard--he hates
me; so that I may not be his friend if I would. I would
understand why there should be a wee bit of envy; but I
cannet see a reason for the whole intensity of what he
feels. Now, can you, Lucetta? It is more like old-fashioned
rivalry in love than just a bit of rivalry in trade."
Lucetta had grown somewhat wan. "No," she replied.
"I give him employment--I cannet refuse it. But neither can
I blind myself to the fact that with a man of passions such
as his, there is no safeguard for conduct!"
"What have you heard--O Donald, dearest?" said Lucetta in
alarm. The words on her lips were "anything about me?"--but
she did not utter them. She could not, however, suppress
her agitation, and her eyes filled with tears.
"No, no--it is not so serious as ye fancy," declared Farfrae
soothingly; though he did not know its seriousness so well
as she.
"I wish you would do what we have talked of," mournfully
remarked Lucetta. "Give up business, and go away from here.
We have plenty of money, and why should we stay?"
Farfrae seemed seriously disposed to discuss this move, and
they talked thereon till a visitor was announced. Their
neighbour Alderman Vatt came in.
"You've heard, I suppose of poor Doctor Chalkfield's death?
Yes--died this afternoon at five," said Mr. Vatt Chalkfield
was the Councilman who had succeeded to the Mayoralty in the
preceding November.
Farfrae was sorry at the intelligence, and Mr. Vatt
continued: "Well, we know he's been going some days, and as
his family is well provided for we must take it all as it
is. Now I have called to ask 'ee this--quite privately. If
I should nominate 'ee to succeed him, and there should be no
particular opposition, will 'ee accept the chair?"
"But there are folk whose turn is before mine; and I'm over
young, and may be thought pushing!" said Farfrae after a
"Not at all. I don't speak for myself only, several have
named it. You won't refuse?"
"We thought of going away," interposed Lucetta, looking at
Farfrae anxiously.
"It was only a fancy," Farfrae murmured. "I wouldna refuse
if it is the wish of a respectable majority in the Council."
"Very well, then, look upon yourself as elected. We have
had older men long enough."
When he was gone Farfrae said musingly, "See now how it's
ourselves that are ruled by the Powers above us! We plan
this, but we do that. If they want to make me Mayor I will
stay, and Henchard must rave as he will."
From this evening onward Lucetta was very uneasy. If she
had not been imprudence incarnate she would not have acted
as she did when she met Henchard by accident a day or two
later. It was in the bustle of the market, when no one
could readily notice their discourse.
"Michael," said she, "I must again ask you what I asked you
months ago--to return me any letters or papers of mine that
you may have--unless you have destroyed them? You must see
how desirable it is that the time at Jersey should be
blotted out, for the good of all parties."
"Why, bless the woman!--I packed up every scrap of your
handwriting to give you in the coach--but you never
She explained how the death of her aunt had prevented her
taking the journey on that day. "And what became of the
parcel then?" she asked.
He could not say--he would consider. When she was gone he
recollected that he had left a heap of useless papers in his
former dining-room safe--built up in the wall of his old
house--now occupied by Farfrae. The letters might have been
amongst them.
A grotesque grin shaped itself on Henchard's face. Had that
safe been opened?
On the very evening which followed this there was a great
ringing of bells in Casterbridge, and the combined brass,
wood, catgut, and leather bands played round the town with
more prodigality of percussion-notes than ever. Farfrae was
Mayor--the two-hundredth odd of a series forming an elective
dynasty dating back to the days of Charles I--and the fair
Lucetta was the courted of the town....But, Ah! the worm i'
the bud--Henchard; what he could tell!
He, in the meantime, festering with indignation at some
erroneous intelligence of Farfrae's opposition to the scheme
for installing him in the little seed-shop, was greeted with
the news of the municipal election (which, by reason of
Farfrae's comparative youth and his Scottish nativity--a
thing unprecedented in the case--had an interest far beyond
the ordinary). The bell-ringing and the band-playing, loud
as Tamerlane's trumpet, goaded the downfallen Henchard
indescribably: the ousting now seemed to him to be complete.
The next morning he went to the corn-yard as usual, and
about eleven o'clock Donald entered through the green door,
with no trace of the worshipful about him. The yet more
emphatic change of places between him and Henchard which
this election had established renewed a slight embarrassment
in the manner of the modest young man; but Henchard showed
the front of one who had overlooked all this; and Farfrae
met his amenities half-way at once.
"I was going to ask you," said Henchard, "about a packet
that I may possibly have left in my old safe in the diningroom."
He added particulars.
"If so, it is there now," said Farfrae. "I have never
opened the safe at all as yet; for I keep ma papers at the
bank, to sleep easy o' nights."
"It was not of much consequence--to me," said Henchard.
"But I'll call for it this evening, if you don't mind?"
It was quite late when he fulfilled his promise. He had
primed himself with grog, as he did very frequently now, and
a curl of sardonic humour hung on his lip as he approached
the house, as though he were contemplating some terrible
form of amusement. Whatever it was, the incident of his
entry did not diminish its force, this being his first visit
to the house since he had lived there as owner. The ring of
the bell spoke to him like the voice of a familiar drudge
who had been bribed to forsake him; the movements of the
doors were revivals of dead days.
Farfrae invited him into the dining-room, where he at once
unlocked the iron safe built into the wall, HIS,
Henchard's safe, made by an ingenious locksmith under his
direction. Farfrae drew thence the parcel, and other
papers, with apologies for not having returned them.
"Never mind," said Henchard drily. "The fact is they are
letters mostly....Yes," he went on, sitting down and
unfolding Lucetta's passionate bundle, "here they be. That
ever I should see 'em again! I hope Mrs. Farfrae is well
after her exertions of yesterday?"
"She has felt a bit weary; and has gone to bed airly on that
Henchard returned to the letters, sorting them over with
interest, Farfrae being seated at the other end of the
dining-table. "You don't forget, of course," he resumed,
"that curious chapter in the history of my past which I told
you of, and that you gave me some assistance in? These
letters are, in fact, related to that unhappy business.
Though, thank God, it is all over now."
"What became of the poor woman?" asked Farfrae.
"Luckily she married, and married well," said Henchard. "So
that these reproaches she poured out on me do not now cause
me any twinges, as they might otherwise have done....Just
listen to what an angry woman will say!"
Farfrae, willing to humour Henchard, though quite
uninterested, and bursting with yawns, gave well-mannered
"'For me,'" Henchard read, "'there is practically no future.
A creature too unconventionally devoted to you--who feels it
impossible that she can be the wife of any other man; and
who is yet no more to you than the first woman you meet in
the street--such am I. I quite acquit you of any intention
to wrong me, yet you are the door through which wrong has
come to me. That in the event of your present wife's death
you will place me in her position is a consolation so far as
it goes--but how far does it go? Thus I sit here, forsaken
by my few acquaintance, and forsaken by you!'"
"That's how she went on to me," said Henchard, "acres of
words like that, when what had happened was what I could not
"Yes," said Farfrae absently, "it is the way wi' women." But
the fact was that he knew very little of the sex; yet
detecting a sort of resemblance in style between the
effusions of the woman he worshipped and those of the
supposed stranger, he concluded that Aphrodite ever spoke
thus, whosesoever the personality she assumed.
Henchard unfolded another letter, and read it through
likewise, stopping at the subscription as before. "Her name
I don't give," he said blandly. "As I didn't marry her, and
another man did, I can scarcely do that in fairness to her."
"Tr-rue, tr-rue," said Farfrae. "But why didn't you marry
her when your wife Susan died?" Farfrae asked this and the
other questions in the comfortably indifferent tone of one
whom the matter very remotely concerned.
"Ah--well you may ask that!" said Henchard, the new-moonshaped
grin adumbrating itself again upon his mouth. "In
spite of all her protestations, when I came forward to do
so, as in generosity bound, she was not the woman for me."
"She had already married another--maybe?"
Henchard seemed to think it would be sailing too near the
wind to descend further into particulars, and he answered
"The young lady must have had a heart that bore
transplanting very readily!"
"She had, she had," said Henchard emphatically.
He opened a third and fourth letter, and read. This time he
approached the conclusion as if the signature were indeed
coming with the rest. But again he stopped short. The
truth was that, as may be divined, he had quite intended to
effect a grand catastrophe at the end of this drama by
reading out the name, he had come to the house with no other
thought. But sitting here in cold blood he could not do it.
Such a wrecking of hearts appalled even him. His quality
was such that he could have annihilated them both in the
heat of action; but to accomplish the deed by oral poison
was beyond the nerve of his enmity.
As Donald stated, Lucetta had retired early to her room
because of fatigue. She had, however, not gone to rest, but
sat in the bedside chair reading and thinking over the
events of the day. At the ringing of the door-bell by
Henchard she wondered who it should be that would call at
that comparatively late hour. The dining-room was almost
under her bed-room; she could hear that somebody was
admitted there, and presently the indistinct murmur of a
person reading became audible.
The usual time for Donald's arrival upstairs came and
passed, yet still the reading and conversation went on.
This was very singular. She could think of nothing but that
some extraordinary crime had been committed, and that the
visitor, whoever he might be, was reading an account of it
from a special edition of the Casterbridge Chronicle.
At last she left the room, and descended the stairs. The
dining-room door was ajar, and in the silence of the resting
household the voice and the words were recognizable before
she reached the lower flight. She stood transfixed. Her
own words greeted her in Henchard's voice, like spirits from
the grave.
Lucetta leant upon the banister with her cheek against the
smooth hand-rail, as if she would make a friend of it in her
misery. Rigid in this position, more and more words fell
successively upon her ear. But what amazed her most was the
tone of her husband. He spoke merely in the accents of a
man who made a present of his time.
"One word," he was saying, as the crackling of paper denoted
that Henchard was unfolding yet another sheet. "Is it quite
fair to this young woman's memory to read at such length to
a stranger what was intended for your eye alone?"
"Well, yes," said Henchard. "By not giving her name I make
it an example of all womankind, and not a scandal to one."
"If I were you I would destroy them," said Farfrae, giving
more thought to the letters than he had hitherto done. "As
another man's wife it would injure the woman if it were
"No, I shall not destroy them," murmured Henchard, putting
the letters away. Then he arose, and Lucetta heard no more.
She went back to her bedroom in a semi-paralyzed state. For
very fear she could not undress, but sat on the edge of the
bed, waiting. Would Henchard let out the secret in his
parting words? Her suspense was terrible. Had she confessed
all to Donald in their early acquaintance he might possibly
have got over it, and married her just the same--unlikely as
it had once seemed; but for her or any one else to tell him
now would be fatal.
The door slammed; she could hear her husband bolting it.
After looking round in his customary way he came leisurely
up the stairs. The spark in her eyes well-nigh went out
when he appeared round the bedroom door. Her gaze hung
doubtful for a moment, then to her joyous amazement she saw
that he looked at her with the rallying smile of one who had
just been relieved of a scene that was irksome. She could
hold out no longer, and sobbed hysterically.
When he had restored her Farfrae naturally enough spoke of
Henchard. "Of all men he was the least desirable as a
visitor," he said; "but it is my belief that he's just a bit
crazed. He has been reading to me a long lot of letters
relating to his past life; and I could do no less than
indulge him by listening.
This was sufficient. Henchard, then, had not told.
Henchard's last words to Farfrae, in short, as he stood on
the doorstep, had been these: "Well--I'm obliged to 'ee for
listening. I may tell more about her some day."
Finding this, she was much perplexed as to Henchard's
motives in opening the matter at all; for in such cases we
attribute to an enemy a power of consistent action which we
never find in ourselves or in our friends; and forget that
abortive efforts from want of heart are as possible to
revenge as to generosity.
Next morning Lucetta remained in bed, meditating how to
parry this incipient attack. The bold stroke of telling
Donald the truth, dimly conceived, was yet too bold; for she
dreaded lest in doing so he, like the rest of the world,
should believe that the episode was rather her fault than
her misfortune. She decided to employ persuasion--not with
Donald but with the enemy himself. It seemed the only
practicable weapon left her as a woman. Having laid her
plan she rose, and wrote to him who kept her on these
"I overheard your interview with my husband last night, and
saw the drift of your revenge. The very thought of it
crushes me! Have pity on a distressed woman! If you could
see me you would relent. You do not know how anxiety has
told upon me lately. I will be at the Ring at the time you
leave work--just before the sun goes down. Please come that
way. I cannot rest till I have seen you face to face, and
heard from your mouth that you will carry this horse-play no
To herself she said, on closing up her appeal: "If ever
tears and pleadings have served the weak to fight the
strong, let them do so now!"
With this view she made a toilette which differed from all
she had ever attempted before. To heighten her natural
attraction had hitherto been the unvarying endeavour of her
adult life, and one in which she was no novice. But now she
neglected this, and even proceeded to impair the natural
presentation. Beyond a natural reason for her slightly
drawn look, she had not slept all the previous night, and
this had produced upon her pretty though slightly worn
features the aspect of a countenance ageing prematurely from
extreme sorrow. She selected--as much from want of spirit
as design--her poorest, plainest and longest discarded
To avoid the contingency of being recognized she veiled
herself, and slipped out of the house quickly. The sun was
resting on the hill like a drop of blood on an eyelid by the
time she had got up the road opposite the amphitheatre,
which she speedily entered. The interior was shadowy, and
emphatic of the absence of every living thing.
She was not disappointed in the fearful hope with which
she awaited him. Henchard came over the top, descended and
Lucetta waited breathlessly. But having reached the arena
she saw a change in his bearing: he stood still at a little
distance from her; she could not think why.
Nor could any one else have known. The truth was that in
appointing this spot, and this hour, for the rendezvous,
Lucetta had unwittingly backed up her entreaty by the
strongest argument she could have used outside words, with
this man of moods, glooms, and superstitions. Her figure in
the midst of the huge enclosure, the unusual plainness of
her dress, her attitude of hope and appeal, so strongly
revived in his soul the memory of another ill-used woman who
had stood there and thus in bygone days, and had now passed
away into her rest, that he was unmanned, and his heart
smote him for having attempted reprisals on one of a sex so
weak. When he approached her, and before she had spoken a
word, her point was half gained.
His manner as he had come down had been one of cynical
carelessness; but he now put away his grim half-smile, and
said in a kindly subdued tone, "Goodnight t'ye. Of course I
in glad to come if you want me."
"O, thank you," she said apprehensively.
"I am sorry to see 'ee looking so ill," he stammered with
unconcealed compunction.
She shook her head. "How can you be sorry," she asked,
"when you deliberately cause it?"
"What!" said Henchard uneasily. "Is it anything I have done
that has pulled you down like that?"
"It is all your doing," she said. "I have no other grief.
My happiness would be secure enough but for your threats. O
Michael! don't wreck me like this! You might think that you
have done enough! When I came here I was a young woman; now
I am rapidly becoming an old one. Neither my husband nor
any other man will regard me with interest long."
Henchard was disarmed. His old feeling of supercilious pity
for womankind in general was intensified by this suppliant
appearing here as the double of the first. Moreover that
thoughtless want of foresight which had led to all her
trouble remained with poor Lucetta still; she had come to
meet him here in this compromising way without
perceiving the risk. Such a woman was very small deer to
hunt; he felt ashamed, lost all zest and desire to humiliate
Lucetta there and then, and no longer envied Farfrae his
bargain. He had married money, but nothing more. Henchard
was anxious to wash his hands of the game.
"Well, what do you want me to do?" he said gently. "I am
sure I shall be very willing. My reading of those letters
was only a sort of practical joke, and I revealed nothing."
"To give me back the letters and any papers you may have
that breathe of matrimony or worse."
"So be it. Every scrap shall be yours....But, between you
and me, Lucetta, he is sure to find out something of the
matter, sooner or later.
"Ah!" she said with eager tremulousness; "but not till I
have proved myself a faithful and deserving wife to him, and
then he may forgive me everything!"
Henchard silently looked at her: he almost envied Farfrae
such love as that, even now. "H'm--I hope so," he said.
"But you shall have the letters without fail. And your
secret shall be kept. I swear it."
"How good you are!--how shall I get them?"
He reflected, and said he would send them the next morning.
"Now don't doubt me," he added. "I can keep my word.
Returning from her appointment Lucetta saw a man waiting by
the lamp nearest to her own door. When she stopped to go in
he came and spoke to her. It was Jopp.
He begged her pardon for addressing her. But he had heard
that Mr. Farfrae had been applied to by a neighbouring cornmerchant
to recommend a working partner; if so he wished to
offer himself. He could give good security, and had stated
as much to Mr. Farfrae in a letter; but he would feel
much obliged if Lucetta would say a word in his favour to
her husband.
"It is a thing I know nothing about," said Lucetta coldly.
"But you can testify to my trustworthiness better than
anybody, ma'am," said Jopp. "I was in Jersey several years,
and knew you there by sight."
"Indeed," she replied. "But I knew nothing of you."
"I think, ma'am, that a word or two from you would secure
for me what I covet very much," he persisted.
She steadily refused to have anything to do with the affair,
and cutting him short, because of her anxiety to get indoors
before her husband should miss her, left him on the
He watched her till she had vanished, and then went home.
When he got there he sat down in the fireless chimney corner
looking at the iron dogs, and the wood laid across them for
heating the morning kettle. A movement upstairs disturbed
him, and Henchard came down from his bedroom, where he
seemed to have been rummaging boxes.
"I wish," said Henchard, "you would do me a service, Jopp,
now--to-night, I mean, if you can. Leave this at Mrs.
Farfrae's for her. I should take it myself, of course, but
I don't wish to be seen there."
He handed a package in brown paper, sealed. Henchard had
been as good as his word. Immediately on coming indoors he
had searched over his few belongings, and every scrap of
Lucetta's writing that he possessed was here. Jopp
indifferently expressed his willingness.
"Well, how have ye got on to-day?" his lodger asked. "Any
prospect of an opening?"
"I am afraid not," said Jopp, who had not told the other of
his application to Farfrae.
"There never will be in Casterbridge," declared Henchard
decisively. "You must roam further afield." He said goodnight
to Jopp, and returned to his own part of the house.
Jopp sat on till his eyes were attracted by the shadow of
the candle-snuff on the wall, and looking at the original he
found that it had formed itself into a head like a red-hot
cauliflower. Henchard's packet next met his gaze. He knew
there had been something of the nature of wooing between
Henchard and the now Mrs. Farfrae; and his vague ideas
on the subject narrowed themselves down to these: Henchard
had a parcel belonging to Mrs. Farfrae, and he had reasons
for not returning that parcel to her in person. What could
be inside it? So he went on and on till, animated by
resentment at Lucetta's haughtiness, as he thought it, and
curiosity to learn if there were any weak sides to this
transaction with Henchard, he examined the package. The pen
and all its relations being awkward tools in Henchard's
hands he had affixed the seals without an impression, it
never occurring to him that the efficacy of such a fastening
depended on this. Jopp was far less of a tyro; he lifted
one of the seals with his penknife, peeped in at the end
thus opened, saw that the bundle consisted of letters; and,
having satisfied himself thus far, sealed up the end again
by simply softening the wax with the candle, and went off
with the parcel as requested.
His path was by the river-side at the foot of the town.
Coming into the light at the bridge which stood at the end
of High Street he beheld lounging thereon Mother Cuxsom and
Nance Mockridge.
"We be just going down Mixen Lane way, to look into Peter's
finger afore creeping to bed," said Mrs. Cuxsom. "There's a
fiddle and tambourine going on there. Lord, what's all the
world--do ye come along too, Jopp--'twon't hinder ye five
Jopp had mostly kept himself out of this company, but
present circumstances made him somewhat more reckless than
usual, and without many words he decided to go to his
destination that way.
Though the upper part of Durnover was mainly composed of a
curious congeries of barns and farm-steads, there was a less
picturesque side to the parish. This was Mixen Lane, now in
great part pulled down.
Mixen Lane was the Adullam of all the surrounding villages.
It was the hiding-place of those who were in distress, and
in debt, and trouble of every kind. Farm-labourers and
other peasants, who combined a little poaching with their
farming, and a little brawling and bibbing with their
poaching, found themselves sooner or later in Mixen Lane.
Rural mechanics too idle to mechanize, rural servants
too rebellious to serve, drifted or were forced into Mixen
The lane and its surrounding thicket of thatched cottages
stretched out like a spit into the moist and misty lowland.
Much that was sad, much that was low, some things that were
baneful, could be seen in Mixen Lane. Vice ran freely in
and out certain of the doors in the neighbourhood;
recklessness dwelt under the roof with the crooked chimney;
shame in some bow-windows; theft (in times of privation) in
the thatched and mud-walled houses by the sallows. Even
slaughter had not been altogether unknown here. In a block
of cottages up an alley there might have been erected an
altar to disease in years gone by. Such was Mixen Lane in
the times when Henchard and Farfrae were Mayors.
Yet this mildewed leaf in the sturdy and flourishing
Casterbridge plant lay close to the open country; not a
hundred yards from a row of noble elms, and commanding a
view across the moor of airy uplands and corn-fields, and
mansions of the great. A brook divided the moor from the
tenements, and to outward view there was no way across it--
no way to the houses but round about by the road. But under
every householder's stairs there was kept a mysterious plank
nine inches wide; which plank was a secret bridge.
If you, as one of those refugee householders, came in from
business after dark--and this was the business time here--
you stealthily crossed the moor, approached the border of
the aforesaid brook, and whistled opposite the house to
which you belonged. A shape thereupon made its appearance
on the other side bearing the bridge on end against the sky;
it was lowered; you crossed, and a hand helped you to land
yourself, together with the pheasants and hares gathered
from neighbouring manors. You sold them slily the next
morning, and the day after you stood before the magistrates
with the eyes of all your sympathizing neighbours
concentrated on your back. You disappeared for a time; then
you were again found quietly living in Mixen Lane.
Walking along the lane at dusk the stranger was struck by
two or three peculiar features therein. One was an
intermittent rumbling from the back premises of the inn
half-way up; this meant a skittle alley. Another was the
extensive prevalence of whistling in the various
domiciles--a piped note of some kind coming from nearly
every open door. Another was the frequency of white aprons
over dingy gowns among the women around the doorways. A
white apron is a suspicious vesture in situations where
spotlessness is difficult; moreover, the industry and
cleanliness which the white apron expressed were belied by
the postures and gaits of the women who wore it--their
knuckles being mostly on their hips (an attitude which lent
them the aspect of two-handled mugs), and their shoulders
against door-posts; while there was a curious alacrity in
the turn of each honest woman's head upon her neck and in
the twirl of her honest eyes, at any noise resembling a
masculine footfall along the lane.
Yet amid so much that was bad needy respectability also
found a home. Under some of the roofs abode pure and
virtuous souls whose presence there was due to the iron hand
of necessity, and to that alone. Families from decayed
villages--families of that once bulky, but now nearly
extinct, section of village society called "liviers," or
lifeholders--copyholders and others, whose roof-trees had
fallen for some reason or other, compelling them to quit the
rural spot that had been their home for generations--came
here, unless they chose to lie under a hedge by the wayside.
The inn called Peter's finger was the church of Mixen Lane.
It was centrally situate, as such places should be, and bore
about the same social relation to the Three Mariners as the
latter bore to the King's Arms. At first sight the inn was
so respectable as to be puzzling. The front door was kept
shut, and the step was so clean that evidently but few
persons entered over its sanded surface. But at the corner
of the public-house was an alley, a mere slit, dividing it
from the next building. Half-way up the alley was a narrow
door, shiny and paintless from the rub of infinite hands and
shoulders. This was the actual entrance to the inn.
A pedestrian would be seen abstractedly passing along Mixen
Lane; and then, in a moment, he would vanish, causing the
gazer to blink like Ashton at the disappearance of
Ravenswood. That abstracted pedestrian had edged into the
slit by the adroit fillip of his person sideways; from the
slit he edged into the tavern by a similar exercise of
The company at the Three Mariners were persons of quality in
comparison with the company which gathered here; though it
must be admitted that the lowest fringe of the Mariner's
party touched the crest of Peter's at points. Waifs and
strays of all sorts loitered about here. The landlady was a
virtuous woman who years ago had been unjustly sent to gaol
as an accessory to something or other after the fact. She
underwent her twelvemonth, and had worn a martyr's
countenance ever since, except at times of meeting the
constable who apprehended her, when she winked her eye.
To this house Jopp and his acquaintances had arrived. The
settles on which they sat down were thin and tall, their
tops being guyed by pieces of twine to hooks in the ceiling;
for when the guests grew boisterous the settles would rock
and overturn without some such security. The thunder of
bowls echoed from the backyard; swingels hung behind the
blower of the chimney; and ex-poachers and ex-gamekeepers,
whom squires had persecuted without a cause, sat elbowing
each other--men who in past times had met in fights under
the moon, till lapse of sentences on the one part, and loss
of favour and expulsion from service on the other, brought
them here together to a common level, where they sat calmly
discussing old times.
"Dost mind how you could jerk a trout ashore with a bramble,
and not ruffle the stream, Charl?" a deposed keeper was
saying. "'Twas at that I caught 'ee once, if you can mind?"
"That I can. But the worst larry for me was that pheasant
business at Yalbury Wood. Your wife swore false that time,
Joe--O, by Gad, she did--there's no denying it."
"How was that?" asked Jopp.
"Why--Joe closed wi' me, and we rolled down together, close
to his garden hedge. Hearing the noise, out ran his wife
with the oven pyle, and it being dark under the trees she
couldn't see which was uppermost. 'Where beest thee, Joe,
under or top?' she screeched. 'O--under, by Gad!' says he.
She then began to rap down upon my skull, back, and ribs
with the pyle till we'd roll over again. 'Where beest now,
dear Joe, under or top?' she'd scream again. By George,
'twas through her I was took! And then when we got up
in hall she sware that the cock pheasant was one of her
rearing, when 'twas not your bird at all, Joe; 'twas Squire
Brown's bird--that's whose 'twas--one that we'd picked off
as we passed his wood, an hour afore. It did hurt my
feelings to be so wronged!...Ah well--'tis over now."
"I might have had 'ee days afore that," said the keeper. "I
was within a few yards of 'ee dozens of times, with a sight
more of birds than that poor one."
"Yes--'tis not our greatest doings that the world gets wind
of," said the furmity-woman, who, lately settled in this
purlieu, sat among the rest. Having travelled a great deal
in her time she spoke with cosmopolitan largeness of idea.
It was she who presently asked Jopp what was the parcel he
kept so snugly under his arm.
"Ah, therein lies a grand secret," said Jopp. "It is the
passion of love. To think that a woman should love one man
so well, and hate another so unmercifully."
"Who's the object of your meditation, sir?"
"One that stands high in this town. I'd like to shame her!
Upon my life, 'twould be as good as a play to read her loveletters,
the proud piece of silk and wax-work! For 'tis her
love-letters that I've got here."
"Love letters? then let's hear 'em, good soul," said Mother
Cuxsom. "Lord, do ye mind, Richard, what fools we used to
be when we were younger? Getting a schoolboy to write ours
for us; and giving him a penny, do ye mind, not to tell
other folks what he'd put inside, do ye mind?"
By this time Jopp had pushed his finger under the seals, and
unfastened the letters, tumbling them over and picking up
one here and there at random, which he read aloud. These
passages soon began to uncover the secret which Lucetta had
so earnestly hoped to keep buried, though the epistles,
being allusive only, did not make it altogether plain.
"Mrs. Farfrae wrote that!" said Nance Mockridge. "'Tis a
humbling thing for us, as respectable women, that one of the
same sex could do it. And now she's avowed herself to
another man!"
"So much the better for her," said the aged furmity-woman.
"Ah, I saved her from a real bad marriage, and she's
never been the one to thank me."
"I say, what a good foundation for a skimmity-ride," said
"True," said Mrs. Cuxsom, reflecting. "'Tis as good a
ground for a skimmity-ride as ever I knowed; and it ought
not to be wasted. The last one seen in Casterbridge must
have been ten years ago, if a day."
At this moment there was a shrill whistle, and the landlady
said to the man who had been called Charl, "'Tis Jim coming
in. Would ye go and let down the bridge for me?"
Without replying Charl and his comrade Joe rose, and
receiving a lantern from her went out at the back door and
down the garden-path, which ended abruptly at the edge of
the stream already mentioned. Beyond the stream was the
open moor, from which a clammy breeze smote upon their faces
as they advanced. Taking up the board that had lain in
readiness one of them lowered it across the water, and the
instant its further end touched the ground footsteps entered
upon it, and there appeared from the shade a stalwart man
with straps round his knees, a double-barrelled gun under
his arm and some birds slung up behind him. They asked him
if he had had much luck.
"Not much," he said indifferently. "All safe inside?"
Receiving a reply in the affirmative he went on inwards, the
others withdrawing the bridge and beginning to retreat in
his rear. Before, however, they had entered the house a cry
of "Ahoy" from the moor led them to pause.
The cry was repeated. They pushed the lantern into an
outhouse, and went back to the brink of the stream.
"Ahoy--is this the way to Casterbridge?" said some one from
the other side.
"Not in particular," said Charl. "There's a river afore
"I don't care--here's for through it!" said the man in the
moor. "I've had travelling enough for to-day."
"Stop a minute, then," said Charl, finding that the man was
no enemy. "Joe, bring the plank and lantern; here's
somebody that's lost his way. You should have kept along
the turnpike road, friend, and not have strook across here."
"I should--as I see now. But I saw a light here, and says I
to myself, that's an outlying house, depend on't."
The plank was now lowered; and the stranger's form
shaped itself from the darkness. He was a middle-aged man,
with hair and whiskers prematurely grey, and a broad and
genial face. He had crossed on the plank without
hesitation, and seemed to see nothing odd in the transit.
He thanked them, and walked between them up the garden.
"What place is this?" he asked, when they reached the door.
"A public-house."
"Ah, perhaps it will suit me to put up at. Now then, come
in and wet your whistle at my expense for the lift over you
have given me."
They followed him into the inn, where the increased light
exhibited him as one who would stand higher in an estimate
by the eye than in one by the ear. He was dressed with a
certain clumsy richness--his coat being furred, and his head
covered by a cap of seal-skin, which, though the nights were
chilly, must have been warm for the daytime, spring being
somewhat advanced. In his hand he carried a small mahogany
case, strapped, and clamped with brass.
Apparently surprised at the kind of company which confronted
him through the kitchen door, he at once abandoned his idea
of putting up at the house; but taking the situation
lightly, he called for glasses of the best, paid for them as
he stood in the passage, and turned to proceed on his way by
the front door. This was barred, and while the landlady was
unfastening it the conversation about the skimmington was
continued in the sitting-room, and reached his ears.
"What do they mean by a 'skimmity-ride'?" he asked.
"O, sir!" said the landlady, swinging her long earrings with
deprecating modesty; "'tis a' old foolish thing they do in
these parts when a man's wife is--well, not too particularly
his own. But as a respectable householder I don't encourage
"Still, are they going to do it shortly? It is a good sight
to see, I suppose?"
"Well, sir!" she simpered. And then, bursting into
naturalness, and glancing from the corner of her eye, "'Tis
the funniest thing under the sun! And it costs money."
"Ah! I remember hearing of some such thing. Now I shall be
in Casterbridge for two or three weeks to come, and
should not mind seeing the performance. Wait a
moment." He turned back, entered the sitting-room, and said,
"Here, good folks; I should like to see the old custom you
are talking of, and I don't mind being something towards it--
take that." He threw a sovereign on the table and returned
to the landlady at the door, of whom, having inquired the
way into the town, he took his leave.
"There were more where that one came from," said Charl when
the sovereign had been taken up and handed to the landlady
for safe keeping. "By George! we ought to have got a few
more while we had him here."
"No, no," answered the landlady. "This is a respectable
house, thank God! And I'll have nothing done but what's
"Well," said Jopp; "now we'll consider the business begun,
and will soon get it in train."
"We will!" said Nance. "A good laugh warms my heart more
than a cordial, and that's the truth on't."
Jopp gathered up the letters, and it being now somewhat late
he did not attempt to call at Farfrae's with them that
night. He reached home, sealed them up as before, and
delivered the parcel at its address next morning. Within an
hour its contents were reduced to ashes by Lucetta, who,
poor soul! was inclined to fall down on her knees in
thankfulness that at last no evidence remained of the
unlucky episode with Henchard in her past. For though hers
had been rather the laxity of inadvertence than of
intention, that episode, if known, was not the less likely
to operate fatally between herself and her husband.
Such was the state of things when the current affairs of
Casterbridge were interrupted by an event of such magnitude
that its influence reached to the lowest social stratum
there, stirring the depths of its society simultaneously
with the preparations for the skimmington. It was one of
those excitements which, when they move a country town,
leave permanent mark upon its chronicles, as a warm
summer permanently marks the ring in the tree-trunk
corresponding to its date.
A Royal Personage was about to pass through the borough on
his course further west, to inaugurate an immense
engineering work out that way. He had consented to halt
half-an-hour or so in the town, and to receive an address
from the corporation of Casterbridge, which, as a
representative centre of husbandry, wished thus to express
its sense of the great services he had rendered to
agricultural science and economics, by his zealous promotion
of designs for placing the art of farming on a more
scientific footing.
Royalty had not been seen in Casterbridge since the days of
the third King George, and then only by candlelight for a
few minutes, when that monarch, on a night-journey, had
stopped to change horses at the King's Arms. The
inhabitants therefore decided to make a thorough fete
carillonee of the unwonted occasion. Half-an-hour's pause
was not long, it is true; but much might be done in it by a
judicious grouping of incidents, above all, if the weather
were fine.
The address was prepared on parchment by an artist who was
handy at ornamental lettering, and was laid on with the best
gold-leaf and colours that the sign-painter had in his shop.
The Council had met on the Tuesday before the appointed day,
to arrange the details of the procedure. While they were
sitting, the door of the Council Chamber standing open, they
heard a heavy footstep coming up the stairs. It advanced
along the passage, and Henchard entered the room, in clothes
of frayed and threadbare shabbiness, the very clothes which
he had used to wear in the primal days when he had sat among
"I have a feeling," he said, advancing to the table and
laying his hand upon the green cloth, "that I should like to
join ye in this reception of our illustrious visitor. I
suppose I could walk with the rest?"
Embarrassed glances were exchanged by the Council and Grower
nearly ate the end of his quill-pen off, so gnawed he it
during the silence. Farfrae the young Mayor, who by virtue
of his office sat in the large chair, intuitively caught the
sense of the meeting, and as spokesman was obliged to
utter it, glad as he would have been that the duty should
have fallen to another tongue.
"I hardly see that it would be proper, Mr. Henchard," said
he. "The Council are the Council, and as ye are no longer
one of the body, there would be an irregularity in the
proceeding. If ye were included, why not others?"
"I have a particular reason for wishing to assist at the
Farfrae looked round. "I think I have expressed the feeling
of the Council," he said.
"Yes, yes," from Dr. Bath, Lawyer Long, Alderman Tubber, and
several more.
"Then I am not to be allowed to have anything to do with it
"I am afraid so; it is out of the question, indeed. But of
course you can see the doings full well, such as they are to
be, like the rest of the spectators."
Henchard did not reply to that very obvious suggestion, and,
turning on his heel, went away.
It had been only a passing fancy of his, but opposition
crystallized it into a determination. "I'll welcome his
Royal Highness, or nobody shall!" he went about saying. "I
am not going to be sat upon by Farfrae, or any of the rest
of the paltry crew! You shall see."
The eventful morning was bright, a full-faced sun
confronting early window-gazers eastward, and all perceived
(for they were practised in weather-lore) that there was
permanence in the glow. Visitors soon began to flock in
from county houses, villages, remote copses, and lonely
uplands, the latter in oiled boots and tilt bonnets, to see
the reception, or if not to see it, at any rate to be near
it. There was hardly a workman in the town who did not put
a clean shirt on. Solomon Longways, Christopher Coney,
Buzzford, and the rest of that fraternity, showed their
sense of the occasion by advancing their customary eleven
o'clock pint to half-past ten; from which they found a
difficulty in getting back to the proper hour for several
Henchard had determined to do no work that day. He primed
himself in the morning with a glass of rum, and walking down
the street met Elizabeth-Jane, whom he had not seen for
a week. "It was lucky," he said to her, "my twenty-one
years had expired before this came on, or I should never
have had the nerve to carry it out."
"Carry out what?" said she, alarmed.
"This welcome I am going to give our Royal visitor."
She was perplexed. "Shall we go and see it together?" she
"See it! I have other fish to fry. You see it. It will be
worth seeing!"
She could do nothing to elucidate this, and decked herself
out with a heavy heart. As the appointed time drew near she
got sight again of her stepfather. She thought he was going
to the Three Mariners; but no, he elbowed his way through
the gay throng to the shop of Woolfrey, the draper. She
waited in the crowd without.
In a few minutes he emerged, wearing, to her surprise, a
brilliant rosette, while more surprising still, in his hand
he carried a flag of somewhat homely construction, formed by
tacking one of the small Union Jacks, which abounded in the
town to-day, to the end of a deal wand--probably the roller
from a piece of calico. Henchard rolled up his flag on the
doorstep, put it under his arm, and went down the street.
Suddenly the taller members of the crowd turned their heads,
and the shorter stood on tiptoe. It was said that the Royal
cortege approached. The railway had stretched out an
arm towards Casterbridge at this time, but had not reached
it by several miles as yet; so that the intervening
distance, as well as the remainder of the journey, was to be
traversed by road in the old fashion. People thus waited--
the county families in their carriages, the masses on foot--
and watched the far-stretching London highway to the ringing
of bells and chatter of tongues.
From the background Elizabeth-Jane watched the scene. Some
seats had been arranged from which ladies could witness the
spectacle, and the front seat was occupied by Lucetta, the
Mayor's wife, just at present. In the road under her eyes
stood Henchard. She appeared so bright and pretty that, as
it seemed, he was experiencing the momentary weakness of
wishing for her notice. But he was far from attractive to a
woman's eye, ruled as that is so largely by the
superficies of things. He was not only a journeyman,
unable to appear as he formerly had appeared, but he
disdained to appear as well as he might. Everybody else,
from the Mayor to the washerwoman, shone in new vesture
according to means; but Henchard had doggedly retained the
fretted and weather-beaten garments of bygone years.
Hence, alas, this occurred: Lucetta's eyes slid over him to
this side and to that without anchoring on his features--as
gaily dressed women's eyes will too often do on such
occasions. Her manner signified quite plainly that she
meant to know him in public no more.
But she was never tired of watching Donald, as he stood in
animated converse with his friends a few yards off, wearing
round his young neck the official gold chain with great
square links, like that round the Royal unicorn. Every
trifling emotion that her husband showed as he talked had
its reflex on her face and lips, which moved in little
duplicates to his. She was living his part rather than her
own, and cared for no one's situation but Farfrae's that
At length a man stationed at the furthest turn of the high
road, namely, on the second bridge of which mention has been
made, gave a signal, and the Corporation in their robes
proceeded from the front of the Town Hall to the archway
erected at the entrance to the town. The carriages
containing the Royal visitor and his suite arrived at the
spot in a cloud of dust, a procession was formed, and the
whole came on to the Town Hall at a walking pace.
This spot was the centre of interest. There were a few
clear yards in front of the Royal carriage, sanded; and into
this space a man stepped before any one could prevent him.
It was Henchard. He had unrolled his private flag, and
removing his hat he staggered to the side of the slowing
vehicle, waving the Union Jack to and fro with his left hand
while he blandly held out his right to the Illustrious
All the ladies said with bated breath, "O, look there!" and
Lucetta was ready to faint. Elizabeth-Jane peeped through
the shoulders of those in front, saw what it was, and was
terrified; and then her interest in the spectacle as a
strange phenomenon got the better of her fear.
Farfrae, with Mayoral authority, immediately rose to
the occasion. He seized Henchard by the shoulder, dragged
him back, and told him roughly to be off. Henchard's eyes
met his, and Farfrae observed the fierce light in them
despite his excitement and irritation. For a moment
Henchard stood his ground rigidly; then by an unaccountable
impulse gave way and retired. Farfrae glanced to the
ladies' gallery, and saw that his Calphurnia's cheek was
"Why--it is your husband's old patron!" said Mrs. Blowbody,
a lady of the neighbourhood who sat beside Lucetta.
"Patron!" said Donald's wife with quick indignation.
"Do you say the man is an acquaintance of Mr. Farfrae's?"
observed Mrs. Bath, the physician's wife, a new-comer to the
town through her recent marriage with the doctor.
"He works for my husband," said Lucetta.
"Oh--is that all? They have been saying to me that it was
through him your husband first got a footing in
Casterbridge. What stories people will tell!"
"They will indeed. It was not so at all. Donald's genius
would have enabled him to get a footing anywhere, without
anybody's help! He would have been just the same if there
had been no Henchard in the world!"
It was partly Lucetta's ignorance of the circumstances of
Donald's arrival which led her to speak thus, partly the
sensation that everybody seemed bent on snubbing her at this
triumphant time. The incident had occupied but a few
moments, but it was necessarily witnessed by the Royal
Personage, who, however, with practised tact affected not to
have noticed anything unusual. He alighted, the Mayor
advanced, the address was read; the Illustrious Personage
replied, then said a few words to Farfrae, and shook hands
with Lucetta as the Mayor's wife. The ceremony occupied but
a few minutes, and the carriages rattled heavily as
Pharaoh's chariots down Corn Street and out upon the
Budmouth Road, in continuation of the journey coastward.
In the crowd stood Coney, Buzzford, and Longways "Some
difference between him now and when he zung at the Dree
Mariners," said the first. "'Tis wonderful how he could get
a lady of her quality to go snacks wi' en in such quick
"True. Yet how folk do worship fine clothes! Now
there's a better-looking woman than she that nobody notices
at all, because she's akin to that hontish fellow Henchard."
"I could worship ye, Buzz, for saying that," remarked Nance
Mockridge. "I do like to see the trimming pulled off such
Christmas candles. I am quite unequal to the part of
villain myself, or I'd gi'e all my small silver to see that
lady toppered....And perhaps I shall soon," she added
"That's not a noble passiont for a 'oman to keep up," said
Nance did not reply, but every one knew what she meant. The
ideas diffused by the reading of Lucetta's letters at
Peter's finger had condensed into a scandal, which was
spreading like a miasmatic fog through Mixen Lane, and
thence up the back streets of Casterbridge.
The mixed assemblage of idlers known to each other presently
fell apart into two bands by a process of natural selection,
the frequenters of Peter's Finger going off Mixen Lanewards,
where most of them lived, while Coney, Buzzford,
Longways, and that connection remained in the street.
"You know what's brewing down there, I suppose?" said
Buzzford mysteriously to the others.
Coney looked at him. "Not the skimmity-ride?"
Buzzford nodded.
"I have my doubts if it will be carried out," said Longways.
"If they are getting it up they are keeping it mighty close.
"I heard they were thinking of it a fortnight ago, at all
"If I were sure o't I'd lay information," said Longways
emphatically. "'Tis too rough a joke, and apt to wake riots
in towns. We know that the Scotchman is a right enough man,
and that his lady has been a right enough 'oman since she
came here, and if there was anything wrong about her afore,
that's their business, not ours."
Coney reflected. Farfrae was still liked in the community;
but it must be owned that, as the Mayor and man of money,
engrossed with affairs and ambitions, he had lost in the
eyes of the poorer inhabitants something of that wondrous
charm which he had had for them as a light-hearted
penniless young man, who sang ditties as readily as the
birds in the trees. Hence the anxiety to keep him from
annoyance showed not quite the ardour that would have
animated it in former days.
"Suppose we make inquiration into it, Christopher,"
continued Longways; "and if we find there's really anything
in it, drop a letter to them most concerned, and advise 'em
to keep out of the way?"
This course was decided on, and the group separated,
Buzzford saying to Coney, "Come, my ancient friend; let's
move on. There's nothing more to see here."
These well-intentioned ones would have been surprised had
they known how ripe the great jocular plot really was.
"Yes, to-night," Jopp had said to the Peter's party at the
corner of Mixen Lane. "As a wind-up to the Royal visit the
hit will be all the more pat by reason of their great
elevation to-day."
To him, at least, it was not a joke, but a retaliation.
The proceedings had been brief--too brief--to Lucetta whom
an intoxicating Weltlust had fairly mastered; but they
had brought her a great triumph nevertheless. The shake of
the Royal hand still lingered in her fingers; and the chitchat
she had overheard, that her husband might possibly
receive the honour of knighthood, though idle to a degree,
seemed not the wildest vision; stranger things had occurred
to men so good and captivating as her Scotchman was.
After the collision with the Mayor, Henchard had withdrawn
behind the ladies' stand; and there he stood, regarding with
a stare of abstraction the spot on the lapel of his coat
where Farfrae's hand had seized it. He put his own hand
there, as if he could hardly realize such an outrage from
one whom it had once been his wont to treat with ardent
generosity. While pausing in this half-stupefied state
the conversation of Lucetta with the other ladies
reached his ears; and he distinctly heard her deny him--deny
that he had assisted Donald, that he was anything more than
a common journeyman.
He moved on homeward, and met Jopp in the archway to the
Bull Stake. "So you've had a snub," said Jopp.
"And what if I have?" answered Henchard sternly.
"Why, I've had one too, so we are both under the same cold
shade." He briefly related his attempt to win Lucetta's
Henchard merely heard his story, without taking it deeply
in. His own relation to Farfrae and Lucetta overshadowed
all kindred ones. He went on saying brokenly to himself,
"She has supplicated to me in her time; and now her tongue
won't own me nor her eyes see me!...And he--how angry he
looked. He drove me back as if I were a bull breaking
fence....I took it like a lamb, for I saw it could not be
settled there. He can rub brine on a green wound!...But he
shall pay for it, and she shall be sorry. It must come to a
tussle--face to face; and then we'll see how a coxcomb can
front a man!"
Without further reflection the fallen merchant, bent on some
wild purpose, ate a hasty dinner and went forth to find
Farfrae. After being injured by him as a rival, and snubbed
by him as a journeyman, the crowning degradation had been
reserved for this day--that he should be shaken at the
collar by him as a vagabond in the face of the whole town.
The crowds had dispersed. But for the green arches which
still stood as they were erected Casterbridge life had
resumed its ordinary shape. Henchard went down corn Street
till he came to Farfrae's house, where he knocked, and left
a message that he would be glad to see his employer at the
granaries as soon as he conveniently could come there.
Having done this he proceeded round to the back and entered
the yard.
Nobody was present, for, as he had been aware, the labourers
and carters were enjoying a half-holiday on account of the
events of the morning--though the carters would have to
return for a short time later on, to feed and litter down
the horses. He had reached the granary steps and was
about to ascend, when he said to himself aloud, "I'm
stronger than he."
Henchard returned to a shed, where he selected a short piece
of rope from several pieces that were lying about; hitching
one end of this to a nail, he took the other in his right
hand and turned himself bodily round, while keeping his arm
against his side; by this contrivance he pinioned the arm
effectively. He now went up the ladders to the top floor of
the corn-stores.
It was empty except of a few sacks, and at the further end
was the door often mentioned, opening under the cathead and
chain that hoisted the sacks. He fixed the door open and
looked over the sill. There was a depth of thirty or forty
feet to the ground; here was the spot on which he had been
standing with Farfrae when Elizabeth-Jane had seen him lift
his arm, with many misgivings as to what the movement
He retired a few steps into the loft and waited. From this
elevated perch his eyes could sweep the roofs round about,
the upper parts of the luxurious chestnut trees, now
delicate in leaves of a week's age, and the drooping boughs
of the lines; Farfrae's garden and the green door leading
therefrom. In course of time--he could not say how long--
that green door opened and Farfrae came through. He was
dressed as if for a journey. The low light of the nearing
evening caught his head and face when he emerged from the
shadow of the wall, warming them to a complexion of flamecolour.
Henchard watched him with his mouth firmly set the
squareness of his jaw and the verticality of his profile
being unduly marked.
Farfrae came on with one hand in his pocket, and humming a
tune in a way which told that the words were most in his
mind. They were those of the song he had sung when he
arrived years before at the Three Mariners, a poor young
man, adventuring for life and fortune, and scarcely knowing
"And here's a hand, my trusty fiere,
And gie's a hand o' thine."
Nothing moved Henchard like an old melody. He sank
back. "No; I can't do it!" he gasped. "Why does the
infernal fool begin that now!"
At length Farfrae was silent, and Henchard looked out of the
loft door. "Will ye come up here?" he said.
"Ay, man," said Farfrae. "I couldn't see ye. What's
A minute later Henchard heard his feet on the lowest ladder.
He heard him land on the first floor, ascend and land on the
second, begin the ascent to the third. And then his head
rose through the trap behind.
"What are you doing up here at this time?" he asked, coming
forward. "Why didn't ye take your holiday like the rest of
the men?" He spoke in a tone which had just severity enough
in it to show that he remembered the untoward event of the
forenoon, and his conviction that Henchard had been
Henchard said nothing; but going back he closed the stair
hatchway, and stamped upon it so that it went tight into its
frame; he next turned to the wondering young man, who by
this time observed that one of Henchard's arms was bound to
his side.
"Now," said Henchard quietly, "we stand face to face--man
and man. Your money and your fine wife no longer lift 'ee
above me as they did but now, and my poverty does not press
me down."
"What does it all mean?" asked Farfrae simply.
"Wait a bit, my lad. You should ha' thought twice before
you affronted to extremes a man who had nothing to lose.
I've stood your rivalry, which ruined me, and your snubbing,
which humbled me; but your hustling, that disgraced me, I
won't stand!"
Farfrae warmed a little at this. "Ye'd no business there,"
he said.
"As much as any one among ye! What, you forward stripling,
tell a man of my age he'd no business there!" The anger-vein
swelled in his forehead as he spoke.
"You insulted Royalty, Henchard; and 'twas my duty, as the
chief magistrate, to stop you."
"Royalty be damned," said Henchard. "I am as loyal as
you, come to that!"
"I am not here to argue. Wait till you cool doon, wait till
you cool; and you will see things the same way as I do."
"You may be the one to cool first," said Henchard grimly.
"Now this is the case. Here be we, in this four-square
loft, to finish out that little wrestle you began this
morning. There's the door, forty foot above ground. One of
us two puts the other out by that door--the master stays
inside. If he likes he may go down afterwards and give the
alarm that the other has fallen out by accident--or he may
tell the truth--that's his business. As the strongest man
I've tied one arm to take no advantage of 'ee. D'ye
understand? Then here's at 'ee!"
There was no time for Farfrae to do aught but one thing, to
close with Henchard, for the latter had come on at once. It
was a wrestling match, the object of each being to give his
antagonist a back fall; and on Henchard's part,
unquestionably, that it should be through the door.
At the outset Henchard's hold by his only free hand, the
right, was on the left side of Farfrae's collar, which he
firmly grappled, the latter holding Henchard by his collar
with the contrary hand. With his right he endeavoured to
get hold of his antagonist's left arm, which, however, he
could not do, so adroitly did Henchard keep it in the rear
as he gazed upon the lowered eyes of his fair and slim
Henchard planted the first toe forward, Farfrae crossing him
with his; and thus far the struggle had very much the
appearance of the ordinary wrestling of those parts.
Several minutes were passed by them in this attitude, the
pair rocking and writhing like trees in a gale, both
preserving an absolute silence. By this time their
breathing could be heard. Then Farfrae tried to get hold of
the other side of Henchard's collar, which was resisted by
the larger man exerting all his force in a wrenching
movement, and this part of the struggle ended by his forcing
Farfrae down on his knees by sheer pressure of one of his
muscular arms. Hampered as he was, however, he could not
keep him there, and Farfrae finding his feet again the
struggle proceeded as before.
By a whirl Henchard brought Donald dangerously near the
precipice; seeing his position the Scotchman for the first
time locked himself to his adversary, and all the efforts of
that infuriated Prince of Darkness--as he might have been
called from his appearance just now--were inadequate to lift
or loosen Farfrae for a time. By an extraordinary effort he
succeeded at last, though not until they had got far back
again from the fatal door. In doing so Henchard contrived
to turn Farfrae a complete somersault. Had Henchard's other
arm been free it would have been all over with Farfrae then.
But again he regained his feet, wrenching Henchard's arm
considerably, and causing him sharp pain, as could be seen
from the twitching of his face. He instantly delivered the
younger man an annihilating turn by the left fore-hip, as it
used to be expressed, and following up his advantage thrust
him towards the door, never loosening his hold till
Farfrae's fair head was hanging over the window-sill, and
his arm dangling down outside the wall.
"Now," said Henchard between his gasps, "this is the end of
what you began this morning. Your life is in my hands."
"Then take it, take it!" said Farfrae. "Ye've wished to
long enough!"
Henchard looked down upon him in silence, and their eyes
met. "O Farfrae!--that's not true!" he said bitterly. "God
is my witness that no man ever loved another as I did thee
at one time....And now--though I came here to kill 'ee, I
cannot hurt thee! Go and give me in charge--do what you
will--I care nothing for what comes of me!"
He withdrew to the back part of the loft, loosened his arm,
and flung himself in a corner upon some sacks, in the
abandonment of remorse. Farfrae regarded him in silence;
then went to the hatch and descended through it. Henchard
would fain have recalled him, but his tongue failed in its
task, and the young man's steps died on his ear.
Henchard took his full measure of shame and self-reproach.
The scenes of his first acquaintance with Farfrae rushed
back upon him--that time when the curious mixture of romance
and thrift in the young man's composition so commanded his
heart that Farfrae could play upon him as on an instrument.
So thoroughly subdued was he that he remained on the sacks
in a crouching attitude, unusual for a man, and for
such a man. Its womanliness sat tragically on the figure of
so stern a piece of virility. He heard a conversation
below, the opening of the coach-house door, and the putting
in of a horse, but took no notice.
Here he stayed till the thin shades thickened to opaque
obscurity, and the loft-door became an oblong of gray light--
the only visible shape around. At length he arose, shook
the dust from his clothes wearily, felt his way to the
hatch, and gropingly descended the steps till he stood in
the yard.
"He thought highly of me once," he murmured. "Now he'll
hate me and despise me for ever!"
He became possessed by an overpowering wish to see Farfrae
again that night, and by some desperate pleading to attempt
the well-nigh impossible task of winning pardon for his late
mad attack. But as he walked towards Farfrae's door he
recalled the unheeded doings in the yard while he had lain
above in a sort of stupor. Farfrae he remembered had gone
to the stable and put the horse into the gig; while doing so
Whittle had brought him a letter; Farfrae had then said that
he would not go towards Budmouth as he had intended--that he
was unexpectedly summoned to Weatherbury, and meant to call
at Mellstock on his way thither, that place lying but one or
two miles out of his course.
He must have come prepared for a journey when he first
arrived in the yard, unsuspecting enmity; and he must have
driven off (though in a changed direction) without saying a
word to any one on what had occurred between themselves.
It would therefore be useless to call at Farfrae's house
till very late.
There was no help for it but to wait till his return, though
waiting was almost torture to his restless and self-accusing
soul. He walked about the streets and outskirts of the
town, lingering here and there till he reached the stone
bridge of which mention has been made, an accustomed
halting-place with him now. Here he spent a long time, the
purl of waters through the weirs meeting his ear, and the
Casterbridge lights glimmering at no great distance off.
While leaning thus upon the parapet his listless attention
was awakened by sounds of an unaccustomed kind from the town
quarter. They were a confusion of rhythmical noises,
to which the streets added yet more confusion by
encumbering them with echoes. His first incurious thought
that the clangour arose from the town band, engaged in an
attempt to round off a memorable day in a burst of evening
harmony, was contradicted by certain peculiarities of
reverberation. But inexplicability did not rouse him to
more than a cursory heed; his sense of degradation was too
strong for the admission of foreign ideas; and he leant
against the parapet as before.
When Farfrae descended out of the loft breathless from his
encounter with Henchard, he paused at the bottom to recover
himself. He arrived at the yard with the intention of
putting the horse into the gig himself (all the men having a
holiday), and driving to a village on the Budmouth Road.
Despite the fearful struggle he decided still to persevere
in his journey, so as to recover himself before going
indoors and meeting the eyes of Lucetta. He wished to
consider his course in a case so serious.
When he was just on the point of driving off Whittle arrived
with a note badly addressed, and bearing the word
"immediate" upon the outside. On opening it he was
surprised to see that it was unsigned. It contained a brief
request that he would go to Weatherbury that evening about
some business which he was conducting there. Farfrae knew
nothing that could make it pressing; but as he was bent upon
going out he yielded to the anonymous request, particularly
as he had a call to make at Mellstock which could be
included in the same tour. Thereupon he told Whittle of his
change of direction, in words which Henchard had overheard,
and set out on his way. Farfrae had not directed his man to
take the message indoors, and Whittle had not been supposed
to do so on his own responsibility.
Now the anonymous letter was a well-intentioned but clumsy
contrivance of Longways and other of Farfrae's men to
get him out of the way for the evening, in order that the
satirical mummery should fall flat, if it were attempted.
By giving open information they would have brought down upon
their heads the vengeance of those among their comrades who
enjoyed these boisterous old games; and therefore the plan
of sending a letter recommended itself by its indirectness.
For poor Lucetta they took no protective measure, believing
with the majority there was some truth in the scandal, which
she would have to bear as she best might.
It was about eight o'clock, and Lucetta was sitting in the
drawing-room alone. Night had set in for more than half an
hour, but she had not had the candles lighted, for when
Farfrae was away she preferred waiting for him by the
firelight, and, if it were not too cold, keeping one of the
window-sashes a little way open that the sound of his wheels
might reach her ears early. She was leaning back in the
chair, in a more hopeful mood than she had enjoyed since her
marriage. The day had been such a success, and the
temporary uneasiness which Henchard's show of effrontery had
wrought in her disappeared with the quiet disappearance of
Henchard himself under her husband's reproof. The floating
evidences of her absurd passion for him, and its
consequences, had been destroyed, and she really seemed to
have no cause for fear.
The reverie in which these and other subjects mingled was
disturbed by a hubbub in the distance, that increased moment
by moment. It did not greatly surprise her, the afternoon
having been given up to recreation by a majority of the
populace since the passage of the Royal equipages. But her
attention was at once riveted to the matter by the voice of
a maid-servant next door, who spoke from an upper window
across the street to some other maid even more elevated than
"Which way be they going now?" inquired the first with
"I can't be sure for a moment," said the second, "because of
the malter's chimbley. O yes--I can see 'em. Well, I
declare, I declare!
"What, what?" from the first, more enthusiastically.
"They are coming up Corn Street after all! They sit
back to back!"
"What--two of 'em--are there two figures?"
"Yes. Two images on a donkey, back to back, their elbows
tied to one another's! She's facing the head, and he's
facing the tail."
"Is it meant for anybody in particular?"
"Well--it mid be. The man has got on a blue coat and
kerseymere leggings; he has black whiskers, and a reddish
face. 'Tis a stuffed figure, with a falseface."
The din was increasing now--then it lessened a little.
"There--I shan't see, after all!" cried the disappointed
first maid.
"They have gone into a back street--that's all," said the
one who occupied the enviable position in the attic.
"There--now I have got 'em all endways nicely!"
"What's the woman like? Just say, and I can tell in a moment
if 'tis meant for one I've in mind."
"My--why--'tis dressed just as SHE dressed when she sat
in the front seat at the time the play-actors came to the
Town Hall!"
Lucetta started to her feet, and almost at the instant the
door of the room was quickly and softly opened. Elizabeth-
Jane advanced into the firelight.
"I have come to see you," she said breathlessly. "I did not
stop to knock--forgive me! I see you have not shut your
shutters, and the window is open."
Without waiting for Lucetta's reply she crossed quickly to
the window and pulled out one of the shutters. Lucetta
glided to her side. "Let it be--hush!" she said
perempority, in a dry voice, while she seized Elizabeth-Jane
by the hand, and held up her finger. Their intercourse had
been so low and hurried that not a word had been lost of the
conversation without, which had thus proceeded:--
"Her neck is uncovered, and her hair in bands, and her backcomb
in place; she's got on a puce silk, and white
stockings, and coloured shoes."
Again Elizabeth-Jane attempted to close the window, but
Lucetta held her by main force.
"'Tis me!" she said, with a face pale as death. "A
procession--a scandal--an effigy of me, and him!"
The look of Elizabeth betrayed that the latter knew it
"Let us shut it out," coaxed Elizabeth-Jane, noting that the
rigid wildness of Lucetta's features was growing yet more
rigid and wild with the meaning of the noise and laughter.
"Let us shut it out!"
"It is of no use!" she shrieked. "He will see it, won't he?
Donald will see it! He is just coming home--and it will
break his heart--he will never love me any more--and O, it
will kill me--kill me!"
Elizabeth-Jane was frantic now. "O, can't something be done
to stop it?" she cried. "Is there nobody to do it--not
She relinquished Lucetta's hands, and ran to the door.
Lucetta herself, saying recklessly "I will see it!" turned
to the window, threw up the sash, and went out upon the
balcony. Elizabeth immediately followed, and put her arm
round her to pull her in. Lucetta's eyes were straight upon
the spectacle of the uncanny revel, now dancing rapidly.
The numerous lights round the two effigies threw them up
into lurid distinctness; it was impossible to mistake the
pair for other than the intended victims.
"Come in, come in," implored Elizabeth; "and let me shut the
"She's me--she's me--even to the parasol--my green parasol!"
cried Lucetta with a wild laugh as she stepped in. She
stood motionless for one second--then fell heavily to the
Almost at the instant of her fall the rude music of the
skimmington ceased. The roars of sarcastic laughter went
off in ripples, and the trampling died out like the rustle
of a spent wind. Elizabeth was only indirectly conscious of
this; she had rung the bell, and was bending over Lucetta,
who remained convulsed on the carpet in the paroxysms of an
epileptic seizure. She rang again and again, in vain; the
probability being that the servants had all run out of the
house to see more of the Daemonic Sabbath than they could
see within.
At last Farfrae's man, who had been agape on the doorstep,
came up; then the cook. The shutters, hastily
pushed to by Elizabeth, were quite closed, a light was
obtained, Lucetta carried to her room, and the man sent off
for a doctor. While Elizabeth was undressing her she
recovered consciousness; but as soon as she remembered what
had passed the fit returned.
The doctor arrived with unhoped-for promptitude; he had been
standing at his door, like others, wondering what the uproar
meant. As soon as he saw the unhappy sufferer he said, in
answer to Elizabeth's mute appeal, "This is serious."
"It is a fit," Elizabeth said.
"Yes. But a fit in the present state of her health means
mischief. You must send at once for Mr. Farfrae. Where is
"He has driven into the country, sir," said the parlourmaid;
"to some place on the Budmouth Road. He's likely to
be back soon."
"Never mind, he must be sent for, in case he should not
hurry." The doctor returned to the bedside again. The man
was despatched, and they soon heard him clattering out of
the yard at the back.
Meanwhile Mr. Benjamin Grower, that prominent burgess of
whom mention has been already made, hearing the din of
cleavers, tongs, tambourines, kits, crouds, humstrums,
serpents, rams'-horns, and other historical kinds of music
as he sat indoors in the High Street, had put on his hat and
gone out to learn the cause. He came to the corner above
Farfrae's, and soon guessed the nature of the proceedings;
for being a native of the town he had witnessed such rough
jests before. His first move was to search hither and
thither for the constables, there were two in the town,
shrivelled men whom he ultimately found in hiding up an
alley yet more shrivelled than usual, having some not
ungrounded fears that they might be roughly handled if seen.
"What can we two poor lammigers do against such a
multitude!" expostulated Stubberd, in answer to Mr. Grower's
chiding. "'Tis tempting 'em to commit felo-de-se upon
us, and that would be the death of the perpetrator; and we
wouldn't be the cause of a fellow-creature's death on no
account, not we!"
"Get some help, then! Here, I'll come with you. We'll see
what a few words of authority can do. Quick now; have
you got your staves?"
"We didn't want the folk to notice us as law officers, being
so short-handed, sir; so we pushed our Gover'ment staves up
this water-pipe.
"Out with 'em, and come along, for Heaven's sake! Ah, here's
Mr. Blowbody; that's lucky." (Blowbody was the third of the
three borough magistrates.)
"Well, what's the row?" said Blowbody. "Got their names--
"No. Now," said Grower to one of the constables, "you go
with Mr. Blowbody round by the Old Walk and come up the
street; and I'll go with Stubberd straight forward. By this
plan we shall have 'em between us. Get their names only: no
attack or interruption."
Thus they started. But as Stubberd with Mr. Grower advanced
into Corn Street, whence the sounds had proceeded, they were
surprised that no procession could be seen. They passed
Farfrae's, and looked to the end of the street. The lamp
flames waved, the Walk trees soughed, a few loungers stood
about with their hands in their pockets. Everything was as
"Have you seen a motley crowd making a disturbance?" Grower
said magisterially to one of these in a fustian jacket, who
smoked a short pipe and wore straps round his knees.
"Beg yer pardon, sir?" blandly said the person addressed,
who was no other than Charl, of Peter's finger. Mr. Grower
repeated the words.
Charl shook his head to the zero of childlike ignorance.
"No; we haven't seen anything; have we, Joe? And you was
here afore I."
Joseph was quite as blank as the other in his reply.
"H'm--that's odd," said Mr. Grower. "Ah--here's a
respectable man coming that I know by sight. Have you," he
inquired, addressing the nearing shape of Jopp, "have you
seen any gang of fellows making a devil of a noise--
skimmington riding, or something of the sort?"
"O no--nothing, sir," Jopp replied, as if receiving the most
singular news. "But I've not been far tonight, so perhaps--
"Oh, 'twas here--just here," said the magistrate.
"Now I've noticed, come to think o't that the wind in the
Walk trees makes a peculiar poetical-like murmur to-night,
sir; more than common; so perhaps 'twas that?" Jopp
suggested, as he rearranged his hand in his greatcoat pocket
(where it ingeniously supported a pair of kitchen tongs and
a cow's horn, thrust up under his waistcoat).
"No, no, no--d'ye think I'm a fool? Constable, come this
way. They must have gone into the back street."
Neither in back street nor in front street, however, could
the disturbers be perceived, and Blowbody and the second
constable, who came up at this time, brought similar
intelligence. Effigies, donkey, lanterns, band, all had
disappeared like the crew of Comus.
"Now," said Mr. Grower, "there's only one thing more we can
do. Get ye half-a-dozen helpers, and go in a body to Mixen
Lane, and into Peter's finger. I'm much mistaken if you
don't find a clue to the perpetrators there."
The rusty-jointed executors of the law mustered assistance
as soon as they could, and the whole party marched off to
the lane of notoriety. It was no rapid matter to get there
at night, not a lamp or glimmer of any sort offering itself
to light the way, except an occasional pale radiance through
some window-curtain, or through the chink of some door which
could not be closed because of the smoky chimney within. At
last they entered the inn boldly, by the till then bolted
front-door, after a prolonged knocking of loudness
commensurate with the importance of their standing.
In the settles of the large room, guyed to the ceiling by
cords as usual for stability, an ordinary group sat drinking
and smoking with statuesque quiet of demeanour. The
landlady looked mildly at the invaders, saying in honest
accents, "Good evening, gentlemen; there's plenty of room.
I hope there's nothing amiss?"
They looked round the room. "Surely," said Stubberd to one
of the men, "I saw you by now in Corn Street--Mr. Grower
spoke to 'ee?"
The man, who was Charl, shook his head absently. "I've been
here this last hour, hain't I, Nance?" he said to the woman
who meditatively sipped her ale near him.
"Faith, that you have. I came in for my quiet suppertime
half-pint, and you were here then, as well as all the
The other constable was facing the clock-case, where he saw
reflected in the glass a quick motion by the landlady.
Turning sharply, he caught her closing the oven-door.
"Something curious about that oven, ma'am!" he observed
advancing, opening it, and drawing out a tambourine.
"Ah," she said apologetically, "that's what we keep here to
use when there's a little quiet dancing. You see damp
weather spoils it, so I put it there to keep it dry."
The constable nodded knowingly, but what he knew was
nothing. Nohow could anything be elicited from this mute
and inoffensive assembly. In a few minutes the
investigators went out, and joining those of their
auxiliaries who had been left at the door they pursued their
way elsewhither.
Long before this time Henchard, weary of his ruminations on
the bridge, had repaired towards the town. When he stood at
the bottom of the street a procession burst upon his view,
in the act of turning out of an alley just above him. The
lanterns, horns, and multitude startled him; he saw the
mounted images, and knew what it all meant.
They crossed the way, entered another street, and
disappeared. He turned back a few steps and was lost in
grave reflection, finally wending his way homeward by the
obscure river-side path. Unable to rest there he went to
his step-daughter's lodging, and was told that Elizabeth-
Jane had gone to Mr. Farfrae's. Like one acting in
obedience to a charm, and with a nameless apprehension, he
followed in the same direction in the hope of meeting her,
the roysterers having vanished. Disappointed in this he
gave the gentlest of pulls to the door-bell, and then learnt
particulars of what had occurred, together with the doctor's
imperative orders that Farfrae should be brought home, and
how they had set out to meet him on the Budmouth Road.
"But he has gone to Mellstock and Weatherbury!" exclaimed
Henchard, now unspeakably grieved. "Not Budmouth way at
But, alas! for Henchard; he had lost his good name. They
would not believe him, taking his words but as the frothy
utterances of recklessness. Though Lucetta's life seemed at
that moment to depend upon her husband's return (she being
in great mental agony lest he should never know the
unexaggerated truth of her past relations with Henchard), no
messenger was despatched towards Weatherbury. Henchard, in
a state of bitter anxiety and contrition, determined to seek
Farfrae himself.
To this end he hastened down the town, ran along the eastern
road over Durnover Moor, up the hill beyond, and thus onward
in the moderate darkness of this spring night till he had
reached a second and almost a third hill about three miles
distant. In Yalbury Bottom, or Plain, at the foot of the
hill, he listened. At first nothing, beyond his own heartthrobs,
was to be heard but the slow wind making its moan
among the masses of spruce and larch of Yalbury Wood which
clothed the heights on either hand; but presently there came
the sound of light wheels whetting their felloes against the
newly stoned patches of road, accompanied by the distant
glimmer of lights.
He knew it was Farfrae's gig descending the hill from an
indescribable personality in its noise, the vehicle having
been his own till bought by the Scotchman at the sale of his
effects. Henchard thereupon retraced his steps along
Yalbury Plain, the gig coming up with him as its driver
slackened speed between two plantations.
It was a point in the highway near which the road to
Mellstock branched off from the homeward direction. By
diverging to that village, as he had intended to do, Farfrae
might probably delay his return by a couple of hours. It
soon appeared that his intention was to do so still, the
light swerving towards Cuckoo Lane, the by-road aforesaid.
Farfrae's off gig-lamp flashed in Henchard's face. At the
same time Farfrae discerned his late antagonist.
"Farfrae--Mr. Farfrae!" cried the breathless Henchard,
holding up his hand.
Farfrae allowed the horse to turn several steps into the
branch lane before he pulled up. He then drew rein, and
said "Yes?" over his shoulder, as one would towards a
pronounced enemy.
"Come back to Casterbridge at once!" Henchard said.
"There's something wrong at your house--requiring your
return. I've run all the way here on purpose to tell ye."
Farfrae was silent, and at his silence Henchard's soul sank
within him. Why had he not, before this, thought of what
was only too obvious? He who, four hours earlier, had
enticed Farfrae into a deadly wrestle stood now in the
darkness of late night-time on a lonely road, inviting him
to come a particular way, where an assailant might have
confederates, instead of going his purposed way, where there
might be a better opportunity of guarding himself from
attack. Henchard could almost feel this view of things in
course of passage through Farfrae's mind.
"I have to go to Mellstock," said Farfrae coldly, as he
loosened his reins to move on.
"But," implored Henchard, "the matter is more serious than
your business at Mellstock. It is--your wife! She is ill.
I can tell you particulars as we go along."
The very agitation and abruptness of Henchard increased
Farfrae's suspicion that this was a ruse to decoy him on
to the next wood, where might be effectually compassed what,
from policy or want of nerve, Henchard had failed to do
earlier in the day. He started the horse.
"I know what you think," deprecated Henchard running after,
almost bowed down with despair as he perceived the image of
unscrupulous villainy that he assumed in his former friend's
eyes. "But I am not what you think!" he cried hoarsely.
"Believe me, Farfrae; I have come entirely on your own and
your wife's account. She is in danger. I know no more; and
they want you to come. Your man has gone the other way in a
mistake. O Farfrae! don't mistrust me--I am a wretched man;
but my heart is true to you still!"
Farfrae, however, did distrust him utterly. He knew his
wife was with child, but he had left her not long ago in
perfect health; and Henchard's treachery was more credible
than his story. He had in his time heard bitter
ironies from Henchard's lips, and there might be ironies
now. He quickened the horse's pace, and had soon risen into
the high country lying between there and Mellstock,
Henchard's spasmodic run after him lending yet more
substance to his thought of evil purposes.
The gig and its driver lessened against the sky in
Henchard's eyes; his exertions for Farfrae's good had been
in vain. Over this repentant sinner, at least, there was to
be no joy in heaven. He cursed himself like a less
scrupulous Job, as a vehement man will do when he loses
self-respect, the last mental prop under poverty. To this
he had come after a time of emotional darkness of which the
adjoining woodland shade afforded inadequate illustration.
Presently he began to walk back again along the way by which
he had arrived. Farfrae should at all events have no reason
for delay upon the road by seeing him there when he took his
journey homeward later on.
Arriving at Casterbridge Henchard went again to Farfrae's
house to make inquiries. As soon as the door opened anxious
faces confronted his from the staircase, hall, and landing;
and they all said in grievous disappointment, "O--it is not
he!" The manservant, finding his mistake, had long since
returned, and all hopes had centred upon Henchard.
"But haven't you found him?" said the doctor.
"Yes....I cannot tell 'ee!" Henchard replied as he sank down
on a chair within the entrance. "He can't be home for two
"H'm," said the surgeon, returning upstairs.
"How is she?" asked Henchard of Elizabeth, who formed one of
the group.
"In great danger, father. Her anxiety to see her husband
makes her fearfully restless. Poor woman--I fear they have
killed her!"
Henchard regarded the sympathetic speaker for a few instants
as if she struck him in a new light, then, without further
remark, went out of the door and onward to his lonely
cottage. So much for man's rivalry, he thought. Death was
to have the oyster, and Farfrae and himself the shells. But
about Elizabeth-lane; in the midst of his gloom she
seemed to him as a pin-point of light. He had liked
the look on her face as she answered him from the stairs.
There had been affection in it, and above all things what he
desired now was affection from anything that was good and
pure. She was not his own, yet, for the first time, he had
a faint dream that he might get to like her as his own,--if
she would only continue to love him.
Jopp was just going to bed when Henchard got home. As the
latter entered the door Jopp said, "This is rather bad about
Mrs. Farfrae's illness."
"Yes," said Henchard shortly, though little dreaming of Jopp
s complicity in the night's harlequinade, and raising his
eyes just sufficiently to observe that Jopp's face was lined
with anxiety.
"Somebody has called for you," continued Jopp, when Henchard
was shutting himself into his own apartment. "A kind of
traveller, or sea-captain of some sort."
"Oh?--who could he be?"
"He seemed a well-be-doing man--had grey hair and a broadish
face; but he gave no name, and no message."
"Nor do I gi'e him any attention." And, saying this,
Henchard closed his door.
The divergence to Mellstock delayed Farfrae's return very
nearly the two hours of Henchard's estimate. Among the
other urgent reasons for his presence had been the need of
his authority to send to Budmouth for a second physician;
and when at length Farfrae did come back he was in a state
bordering on distraction at his misconception of Henchard's
A messenger was despatched to Budmouth, late as it had
grown; the night wore on, and the other doctor came in the
small hours. Lucetta had been much soothed by Donald's
arrival; he seldom or never left her side; and when,
immediately after his entry, she had tried to lisp out to
him the secret which so oppressed her, he checked her feeble
words, lest talking should be dangerous, assuring her there
was plenty of time to tell him everything.
Up to this time he knew nothing of the skimmington-ride.
The dangerous illness and miscarriage of Mrs. Farfrae was
soon rumoured through the town, and an apprehensive
guess having been given as to its cause by the leaders in
the exploit, compunction and fear threw a dead silence over
all particulars of their orgie; while those immediately
around Lucetta would not venture to add to her husband's
distress by alluding to the subject.
What, and how much, Farfrae's wife ultimately explained to
him of her past entanglement with Henchard, when they were
alone in the solitude of that sad night, cannot be told.
That she informed him of the bare facts of her peculiar
intimacy with the corn-merchant became plain from Farfrae's
own statements. But in respect of her subsequent conduct--
her motive in coming to Casterbridge to unite herself with
Henchard--her assumed justification in abandoning him when
she discovered reasons for fearing him (though in truth her
inconsequent passion for another man at first sight had most
to do with that abandonment)--her method of reconciling to
her conscience a marriage with the second when she was in a
measure committed to the first: to what extent she spoke of
these things remained Farfrae's secret alone.
Besides the watchman who called the hours and weather in
Casterbridge that night there walked a figure up and down
corn Street hardly less frequently. It was Henchard's,
whose retiring to rest had proved itself a futility as soon
as attempted; and he gave it up to go hither and thither,
and make inquiries about the patient every now and then. He
called as much on Farfrae's account as on Lucetta's, and on
Elizabeth-Jane's even more than on either's. Shorn one by
one of all other interests, his life seemed centring on the
personality of the stepdaughter whose presence but recently
he could not endure. To see her on each occasion of his
inquiry at Lucetta's was a comfort to him.
The last of his calls was made about four o'clock in the
morning, in the steely light of dawn. Lucifer was fading
into day across Durnover Moor, the sparrows were just
alighting into the street, and the hens had begun to cackle
from the outhouses. When within a few yards of Farfrae's he
saw the door gently opened, and a servant raise her hand to
the knocker, to untie the piece of cloth which had muffled
it. He went across, the sparrows in his way scarcely
flying up from the road-litter, so little did they believe
in human aggression at so early a time.
"Why do you take off that?" said Henchard.
She turned in some surprise at his presence, and did not
answer for an instant or two. Recognizing him, she said,
"Because they may knock as loud as they will; she will never
hear it any more."
Henchard went home. The morning having now fully broke he
lit his fire, and sat abstractedly beside it. He had not
sat there long when a gentle footstep approached the house
and entered the passage, a finger tapping lightly at the
door. Henchard's face brightened, for he knew the motions
to be Elizabeth's. She came into his room, looking wan and
"Have you heard?" she asked. "Mrs. Farfrae! She is--dead!
Yes, indeed--about an hour ago!"
"I know it," said Henchard. "I have but lately come in from
there. It is so very good of 'ee, Elizabeth, to come and
tell me. You must be so tired out, too, with sitting up.
Now do you bide here with me this morning. You can go and
rest in the other room; and I will call 'ee when breakfast
is ready."
To please him, and herself--for his recent kindliness was
winning a surprised gratitude from the lonely girl--she did
as he bade her, and lay down on a sort of couch which
Henchard had rigged up out of a settle in the adjoining
room. She could hear him moving about in his preparations;
but her mind ran most strongly on Lucetta, whose death in
such fulness of life and amid such cheerful hopes of
maternity was appallingly unexpected. Presently she fell
Meanwhile her stepfather in the outer room had set the
breakfast in readiness; but finding that she dozed he would
not call her; he waited on, looking into the fire and
keeping the kettle boiling with house-wifely care, as if it
were an honour to have her in his house. In truth, a
great change had come over him with regard to her, and he
was developing the dream of a future lit by her filial
presence, as though that way alone could happiness lie.
He was disturbed by another knock at the door, and rose to
open it, rather deprecating a call from anybody just then.
A stoutly built man stood on the doorstep, with an alien,
unfamiliar air about his figure and bearing--an air which
might have been called colonial by people of cosmopolitan
experience. It was the man who had asked the way at Peter's
finger. Henchard nodded, and looked inquiry.
"Good morning, good morning," said the stranger with profuse
heartiness. "Is it Mr. Henchard I am talking to?"
"My name is Henchard."
"Then I've caught 'ee at home--that's right. Morning's the
time for business, says I. Can I have a few words with
"By all means," Henchard answered, showing the way in.
"You may remember me?" said his visitor, seating himself.
Henchard observed him indifferently, and shook his head.
"Well--perhaps you may not. My name is Newson."
Henchard's face and eyes seemed to die. The other did not
notice it. "I know the name well," Henchard said at last,
looking on the floor.
"I make no doubt of that. Well, the fact is, I've been
looking for 'ee this fortnight past. I landed at Havenpool
and went through Casterbridge on my way to Falmouth, and
when I got there, they told me you had some years before
been living at Casterbridge. Back came I again, and by long
and by late I got here by coach, ten minutes ago. 'He lives
down by the mill,' says they. So here I am. Now--that
transaction between us some twenty years agone--'tis that
I've called about. 'Twas a curious business. I was younger
then than I am now, and perhaps the less said about it, in
one sense, the better."
"Curious business! 'Twas worse than curious. I cannot even
allow that I'm the man you met then. I was not in my
senses, and a man's senses are himself."
"We were young and thoughtless," said Newson. "However,
I've come to mend matters rather than open arguments. Poor
Susan--hers was a strange experience."
"She was a warm-hearted, home-spun woman. She was not
what they call shrewd or sharp at all--better she had been."
"She was not."
"As you in all likelihood know, she was simple-minded enough
to think that the sale was in a way binding. She was as
guiltless o' wrong-doing in that particular as a saint in
the clouds."
"I know it, I know it. I found it out directly," said
Henchard, still with averted eyes. "There lay the sting o't
to me. If she had seen it as what it was she would never
have left me. Never! But how should she be expected to
know? What advantages had she? None. She could write her
own name, and no more.
"Well, it was not in my heart to undeceive her when the deed
was done," said the sailor of former days. "I thought, and
there was not much vanity in thinking it, that she would be
happier with me. She was fairly happy, and I never would
have undeceived her till the day of her death. Your child
died; she had another, and all went well. But a time came--
mind me, a time always does come. A time came--it was some
while after she and I and the child returned from America--
when somebody she had confided her history to, told her my
claim to her was a mockery, and made a jest of her belief in
my right. After that she was never happy with me. She
pined and pined, and socked and sighed. She said she must
leave me, and then came the question of our child. Then a
man advised me how to act, and I did it, for I thought it
was best. I left her at Falmouth, and went off to sea.
When I got to the other side of the Atlantic there was a
storm, and it was supposed that a lot of us, including
myself, had been washed overboard. I got ashore at
Newfoundland, and then I asked myself what I should do.
"'Since I'm here, here I'll bide,' I thought to myself;
''twill be most kindness to her, now she's taken against me,
to let her believe me lost, for,' I thought, 'while she
supposes us both alive she'll be miserable; but if she
thinks me dead she'll go back to him, and the child will
have a home.' I've never returned to this country till a
month ago, and I found that, as I supposed, she went to you,
and my daughter with her. They told me in Falmouth
that Susan was dead. But my Elizabeth-Jane--where is she?"
"Dead likewise," said Henchard doggedly. "Surely you learnt
that too?"
The sailor started up, and took an enervated pace or two
down the room. "Dead!" he said, in a low voice. "Then
what's the use of my money to me?"
Henchard, without answering, shook his head as if that were
rather a question for Newson himself than for him.
"Where is she buried?" the traveller inquired.
"Beside her mother," said Henchard, in the same stolid
"When did she die?"
"A year ago and more," replied the other without hesitation.
The sailor continued standing. Henchard never looked up
from the floor. At last Newson said: "My journey hither has
been for nothing! I may as well go as I came! It has served
me right. I'll trouble you no longer."
Henchard heard the retreating footsteps of Newson upon the
sanded floor, the mechanical lifting of the latch, the slow
opening and closing of the door that was natural to a
baulked or dejected man; but he did not turn his head.
Newson's shadow passed the window. He was gone.
Then Henchard, scarcely believing the evidence of his
senses, rose from his seat amazed at what he had done. It
had been the impulse of a moment. The regard he had lately
acquired for Elizabeth, the new-sprung hope of his
loneliness that she would be to him a daughter of whom he
could feel as proud as of the actual daughter she still
believed herself to be, had been stimulated by the
unexpected coming of Newson to a greedy exclusiveness in
relation to her; so that the sudden prospect of her loss had
caused him to speak mad lies like a child, in pure mockery
of consequences. He had expected questions to close in
round him, and unmask his fabrication in five minutes; yet
such questioning had not come. But surely they would come;
Newson's departure could be but momentary; he would learn
all by inquiries in the town; and return to curse him, and
carry his last treasure away!
He hastily put on his hat, and went out in the
direction that Newson had taken. Newson's back was soon
visible up the road, crossing Bull-stake. Henchard
followed, and saw his visitor stop at the King's Arms, where
the morning coach which had brought him waited half-an-hour
for another coach which crossed there. The coach Newson had
come by was now about to move again. Newson mounted, his
luggage was put in, and in a few minutes the vehicle
disappeared with him.
He had not so much as turned his head. It was an act of
simple faith in Henchard's words--faith so simple as to be
almost sublime. The young sailor who had taken Susan
Henchard on the spur of the moment and on the faith of a
glance at her face, more than twenty years before, was still
living and acting under the form of the grizzled traveller
who had taken Henchard's words on trust so absolute as to
shame him as he stood.
Was Elizabeth-Jane to remain his by virtue of this hardy
invention of a moment? "Perhaps not for long," said he.
Newson might converse with his fellow-travellers, some of
whom might be Casterbridge people; and the trick would be
This probability threw Henchard into a defensive attitude,
and instead of considering how best to right the wrong, and
acquaint Elizabeth's father with the truth at once, he
bethought himself of ways to keep the position he had
accidentally won. Towards the young woman herself his
affection grew more jealously strong with each new hazard to
which his claim to her was exposed.
He watched the distant highway expecting to see Newson
return on foot, enlightened and indignant, to claim his
child. But no figure appeared. Possibly he had spoken to
nobody on the coach, but buried his grief in his own heart.
His grief!--what was it, after all, to that which he,
Henchard, would feel at the loss of her? Newson's affection
cooled by years, could not equal his who had been constantly
in her presence. And thus his jealous soul speciously
argued to excuse the separation of father and child.
He returned to the house half expecting that she would have
vanished. No; there she was--just coming out from the
inner room, the marks of sleep upon her eyelids, and
exhibiting a generally refreshed air.
"O father!" she said smiling. "I had no sooner lain down
than I napped, though I did not mean to. I wonder I did not
dream about poor Mrs. Farfrae, after thinking of her so; but
I did not. How strange it is that we do not often dream of
latest events, absorbing as they may be."
"I am glad you have been able to sleep," he said, taking her
hand with anxious proprietorship--an act which gave her a
pleasant surprise.
They sat down to breakfast, and Elizabeth-Jane's thoughts
reverted to Lucetta. Their sadness added charm to a
countenance whose beauty had ever lain in its meditative
"Father," she said, as soon as she recalled herself to the
outspread meal, "it is so kind of you to get this nice
breakfast with your own hands, and I idly asleep the while."
"I do it every day," he replied. "You have left me;
everybody has left me; how should I live but by my own
"You are very lonely, are you not?"
"Ay, child--to a degree that you know nothing of! It is my
own fault. You are the only one who has been near me for
weeks. And you will come no more."
"Why do you say that? Indeed I will, if you would like to
see me."
Henchard signified dubiousness. Though he had so lately
hoped that Elizabeth-Jane might again live in his house as
daughter, he would not ask her to do so now. Newson might
return at any moment, and what Elizabeth would think of him
for his deception it were best to bear apart from her.
When they had breakfasted his stepdaughter still lingered,
till the moment arrived at which Henchard was accustomed to
go to his daily work. Then she arose, and with assurance of
coming again soon went up the hill in the morning sunlight.
"At this moment her heart is as warm towards me as mine is
towards her, she would live with me here in this humble
cottage for the asking! Yet before the evening probably he
will have come, and then she will scorn me!"
This reflection, constantly repeated by Henchard to
himself, accompanied him everywhere through the day.
His mood was no longer that of the rebellious, ironical,
reckless misadventurer; but the leaden gloom of one who has
lost all that can make life interesting, or even tolerable.
There would remain nobody for him to be proud of, nobody to
fortify him; for Elizabeth-Jane would soon be but as a
stranger, and worse. Susan, Farfrae, Lucetta, Elizabeth--
all had gone from him, one after one, either by his fault or
by his misfortune.
In place of them he had no interest, hobby, or desire. If
he could have summoned music to his aid his existence might
even now have been borne; for with Henchard music was of
regal power. The merest trumpet or organ tone was enough to
move him, and high harmonies transubstantiated him. But
hard fate had ordained that he should be unable to call up
this Divine spirit in his need.
The whole land ahead of him was as darkness itself; there
was nothing to come, nothing to wait for. Yet in the
natural course of life he might possibly have to linger on
earth another thirty or forty years--scoffed at; at best
The thought of it was unendurable.
To the east of Casterbridge lay moors and meadows through
which much water flowed. The wanderer in this direction who
should stand still for a few moments on a quiet night, might
hear singular symphonies from these waters, as from a
lampless orchestra, all playing in their sundry tones from
near and far parts of the moor. At a hole in a rotten weir
they executed a recitative; where a tributary brook fell
over a stone breastwork they trilled cheerily; under an arch
they performed a metallic cymballing, and at Durnover Hole
they hissed. The spot at which their instrumentation rose
loudest was a place called Ten Hatches, whence during high
springs there proceeded a very fugue of sounds.
The river here was deep and strong at all times, and the
hatches on this account were raised and lowered by cogs and
a winch. A patch led from the second bridge over the
highway (so often mentioned) to these Hatches, crossing the
stream at their head by a narrow plank-bridge. But after
night-fall human beings were seldom found going that way,
the path leading only to a deep reach of the stream
called Blackwater, and the passage being dangerous.
Henchard, however, leaving the town by the east road,
proceeded to the second, or stone bridge, and thence struck
into this path of solitude, following its course beside the
stream till the dark shapes of the Ten Hatches cut the sheen
thrown upon the river by the weak lustre that still lingered
in the west. In a second or two he stood beside the weirhole
where the water was at its deepest. He looked
backwards and forwards, and no creature appeared in view.
He then took off his coat and hat, and stood on the brink of
the stream with his hands clasped in front of him.
While his eyes were bent on the water beneath there slowly
became visible a something floating in the circular pool
formed by the wash of centuries; the pool he was intending
to make his death-bed. At first it was indistinct by reason
of the shadow from the bank; but it emerged thence and took
shape, which was that of a human body, lying stiff and stark
upon the surface of the stream.
In the circular current imparted by the central flow the
form was brought forward, till it passed under his eyes; and
then he perceived with a sense of horror that it was
HIMSELF. Not a man somewhat resembling him, but one in all
respects his counterpart, his actual double, was floating as
if dead in Ten Hatches Hole.
The sense of the supernatural was strong in this unhappy
man, and he turned away as one might have done in the actual
presence of an appalling miracle. He covered his eyes and
bowed his head. Without looking again into the stream he
took his coat and hat, and went slowly away.
Presently he found himself by the door of his own dwelling.
To his surprise Elizabeth-Jane was standing there. She came
forward, spoke, called him "father" just as before. Newson,
then, had not even yet returned.
"I thought you seemed very sad this morning," she said, "so
I have come again to see you. Not that I am anything but
sad myself. But everybody and everything seem against you
so, and I know you must be suffering.
How this woman divined things! Yet she had not divined their
whole extremity.
He said to her, "Are miracles still worked, do ye
think, Elizabeth? I am not a read man. I don't know so much
as I could wish. I have tried to peruse and learn all my
life; but the more I try to know the more ignorant I seem."
"I don't quite think there are any miracles nowadays," she
"No interference in the case of desperate intentions, for
instance? Well, perhaps not, in a direct way. Perhaps not.
But will you come and walk with me, and I will show 'ee what
I mean."
She agreed willingly, and he took her over the highway, and
by the lonely path to Ten Hatches. He walked restlessly, as
if some haunting shade, unseen of her, hovered round him and
troubled his glance. She would gladly have talked of
Lucetta, but feared to disturb him. When they got near the
weir he stood still, and asked her to go forward and look
into the pool, and tell him what she saw.
She went, and soon returned to him. "Nothing," she said.
"Go again," said Henchard, "and look narrowly."
She proceeded to the river brink a second time. On her
return, after some delay, she told him that she saw
something floating round and round there; but what it was
she could not discern. It seemed to be a bundle of old
"Are they like mine?" asked Henchard.
"Well--they are. Dear me--I wonder if--Father, let us go
"Go and look once more; and then we will get home."
She went back, and he could see her stoop till her head was
close to the margin of the pool. She started up, and
hastened back to his side.
"Well," said Henchard; "what do you say now?"
"Let us go home."
"But tell me--do--what is it floating there?"
"The effigy," she answered hastily. "They must have thrown
it into the river higher up amongst the willows at
Blackwater, to get rid of it in their alarm at discovery by
the magistrates, and it must have floated down here."
"Ah--to be sure--the image o' me! But where is the other?
Why that one only?...That performance of theirs killed her,
but kept me alive!"
Elizabeth-Jane thought and thought of these words "kept
me alive," as they slowly retraced their way to the town,
and at length guessed their meaning. "Father!--I will not
leave you alone like this!" she cried. "May I live with
you, and tend upon you as I used to do? I do not mind your
being poor. I would have agreed to come this morning, but
you did not ask me."
"May you come to me?" he cried bitterly. "Elizabeth, don't
mock me! If you only would come!"
"I will," said she.
"How will you forgive all my roughness in former days? You
"I have forgotten it. Talk of that no more."
Thus she assured him, and arranged their plans for reunion;
and at length each went home. Then Henchard shaved for the
first time during many days, and put on clean linen, and
combed his hair; and was as a man resuscitated thenceforward.
The next morning the fact turned out to be as Elizabeth-Jane
had stated; the effigy was discovered by a cowherd, and that
of Lucetta a little higher up in the same stream. But as
little as possible was said of the matter, and the figures
were privately destroyed.
Despite this natural solution of the mystery Henchard no
less regarded it as an intervention that the figure should
have been floating there. Elizabeth-Jane heard him say,
"Who is such a reprobate as I! And yet it seems that even I
be in Somebody's hand!"
But the emotional conviction that he was in Somebody's hand
began to die out of Henchard's breast as time slowly removed
into distance the event which had given that feeling birth.
The apparition of Newson haunted him. He would surely
Yet Newson did not arrive. Lucetta had been borne along
the churchyard path; Casterbridge had for the last time
turned its regard upon her, before proceeding to its work as
if she had never lived. But Elizabeth remained undisturbed
in the belief of her relationship to Henchard, and now
shared his home. Perhaps, after all, Newson was gone for
In due time the bereaved Farfrae had learnt the, at least,
proximate cause of Lucetta's illness and death, and his
first impulse was naturally enough to wreak vengeance in the
name of the law upon the perpetrators of the mischief. He
resolved to wait till the funeral was over ere he moved in
the matter. The time having come he reflected. Disastrous
as the result had been, it was obviously in no way foreseen
or intended by the thoughtless crew who arranged the motley
procession. The tempting prospect of putting to the blush
people who stand at the head of affairs--that supreme and
piquant enjoyment of those who writhe under the heel of the
same--had alone animated them, so far as he could see; for
he knew nothing of Jopp's incitements. Other considerations
were also involved. Lucetta had confessed everything to him
before her death, and it was not altogether desirable to
make much ado about her history, alike for her sake, for
Henchard's, and for his own. To regard the event as an
untoward accident seemed, to Farfrae, truest consideration
for the dead one's memory, as well as best philosophy.
Henchard and himself mutually forbore to meet. For
Elizabeth's sake the former had fettered his pride
sufficiently to accept the small seed and root business
which some of the Town Council, headed by Farfrae, had
purchased to afford him a new opening. Had he been only
personally concerned Henchard, without doubt, would have
declined assistance even remotely brought about by the man
whom he had so fiercely assailed. But the sympathy of the
girl seemed necessary to his very existence; and on her
account pride itself wore the garments of humility.
Here they settled themselves; and on each day of their lives
Henchard anticipated her every wish with a watchfulness in
which paternal regard was heightened by a burning jealous
dread of rivalry. Yet that Newson would ever now return to
Casterbridge to claim her as a daughter there was
little reason to suppose. He was a wanderer and a
stranger, almost an alien; he had not seen his daughter for
several years; his affection for her could not in the nature
of things be keen; other interests would probably soon
obscure his recollections of her, and prevent any such
renewal of inquiry into the past as would lead to a
discovery that she was still a creature of the present. To
satisfy his conscience somewhat Henchard repeated to himself
that the lie which had retained for him the coveted treasure
had not been deliberately told to that end, but had come
from him as the last defiant word of a despair which took no
thought of consequences. Furthermore he pleaded within
himself that no Newson could love her as he loved her, or
would tend her to his life's extremity as he was prepared to
do cheerfully.
Thus they lived on in the shop overlooking the churchyard,
and nothing occurred to mark their days during the remainder
of the year. Going out but seldom, and never on a marketday,
they saw Donald Farfrae only at rarest intervals, and
then mostly as a transitory object in the distance of the
street. Yet he was pursuing his ordinary avocations,
smiling mechanically to fellow-tradesmen, and arguing with
bargainers--as bereaved men do after a while.
Time, "in his own grey style," taught Farfrae how to
estimate his experience of Lucetta--all that it was, and all
that it was not. There are men whose hearts insist upon a
dogged fidelity to some image or cause thrown by chance into
their keeping, long after their judgment has pronounced it
no rarity--even the reverse, indeed, and without them the
band of the worthy is incomplete. But Farfrae was not of
those. It was inevitable that the insight, briskness, and
rapidity of his nature should take him out of the dead blank
which his loss threw about him. He could not but perceive
that by the death of Lucetta he had exchanged a looming
misery for a simple sorrow. After that revelation of her
history, which must have come sooner or later in any
circumstances, it was hard to believe that life with her
would have been productive of further happiness.
But as a memory, nothwithstanding such conditions, Lucetta's
image still lived on with him, her weaknesses provoking only
the gentlest criticism, and her sufferings attenuating
wrath at her concealments to a momentary spark now and
By the end of a year Henchard's little retail seed and grain
shop, not much larger than a cupboard, had developed its
trade considerably, and the stepfather and daughter enjoyed
much serenity in the pleasant, sunny corner in which it
stood. The quiet bearing of one who brimmed with an inner
activity characterized Elizabeth-Jane at this period. She
took long walks into the country two or three times a week,
mostly in the direction of Budmouth. Sometimes it occurred
to him that when she sat with him in the evening after those
invigorating walks she was civil rather than affectionate;
and he was troubled; one more bitter regret being added to
those he had already experienced at having, by his severe
censorship, frozen up her precious affection when originally
She had her own way in everything now. In going and coming,
in buying and selling, her word was law.
"You have got a new muff, Elizabeth," he said to her one day
quite humbly.
"Yes; I bought it," she said.
He looked at it again as it lay on an adjoining table. The
fur was of a glossy brown, and, though he was no judge of
such articles, he thought it seemed an unusually good one
for her to possess.
"Rather costly, I suppose, my dear, was it not?" he
"It was rather above my figure," she said quietly. "But it
is not showy."
"O no," said the netted lion, anxious not to pique her in
the least.
Some little time after, when the year had advanced into
another spring, he paused opposite her empty bedroom in
passing it. He thought of the time when she had cleared out
of his then large and handsome house in corn Street, in
consequence of his dislike and harshness, and he had looked
into her chamber in just the same way. The present room was
much humbler, but what struck him about it was the abundance
of books lying everywhere. Their number and quality made
the meagre furniture that supported them seem absurdly
disproportionate. Some, indeed many, must have been
recently purchased; and though he encouraged her to buy in
reason, he had no notion that she indulged her innate
passion so extensively in proportion to the narrowness of
their income. For the first time he felt a little hurt by
what he thought her extravagance, and resolved to say a word
to her about it. But, before he had found the courage to
speak an event happened which set his thoughts flying in
quite another direction.
The busy time of the seed trade was over, and the quiet
weeks that preceded the hay-season had come--setting their
special stamp upon Casterbridge by thronging the market with
wood rakes, new waggons in yellow, green, and red,
formidable scythes, and pitchforks of prong sufficient to
skewer up a small family. Henchard, contrary to his wont,
went out one Saturday afternoon towards the market-place
from a curious feeling that he would like to pass a few
minutes on the spot of his former triumphs. Farfrae, to
whom he was still a comparative stranger, stood a few steps
below the Corn Exchange door--a usual position with him at
this hour--and he appeared lost in thought about something
he was looking at a little way off.
Henchard's eyes followed Farfrae's, and he saw that the
object of his gaze was no sample-showing farmer, but his own
stepdaughter, who had just come out of a shop over the way.
She, on her part, was quite unconscious of his attention,
and in this was less fortunate than those young women whose
very plumes, like those of Juno's bird, are set with Argus
eyes whenever possible admirers are within ken.
Henchard went away, thinking that perhaps there was nothing
significant after all in Farfrae's look at Elizabeth-Jane at
that juncture. Yet he could not forget that the Scotchman
had once shown a tender interest in her, of a fleeting kind.
Thereupon promptly came to the surface that idiosyncrasy of
Henchard's which had ruled his courses from the beginning
and had mainly made him what he was. Instead of thinking
that a union between his cherished step-daughter and the
energetic thriving Donald was a thing to be desired for her
good and his own, he hated the very possibility.
Time had been when such instinctive opposition would
have taken shape in action. But he was not now the
Henchard of former days. He schooled himself to accept her
will, in this as in other matters, as absolute and
unquestionable. He dreaded lest an antagonistic word should
lose for him such regard as he had regained from her by his
devotion, feeling that to retain this under separation was
better than to incur her dislike by keeping her near.
But the mere thought of such separation fevered his spirit
much, and in the evening he said, with the stillness of
suspense: "Have you seen Mr. Farfrae to-day, Elizabeth?"
Elizabeth-Jane started at the question; and it was with some
confusion that she replied "No."
"Oh--that's right--that's right....It was only that I saw
him in the street when we both were there." He was wondering
if her embarrassment justified him in a new suspicion--that
the long walks which she had latterly been taking, that the
new books which had so surprised him, had anything to do
with the young man. She did not enlighten him, and lest
silence should allow her to shape thoughts unfavourable to
their present friendly relations, he diverted the discourse
into another channel.
Henchard was, by original make, the last man to act
stealthily, for good or for evil. But the solicitus
timor of his love--the dependence upon Elizabeth's regard
into which he had declined (or, in another sense, to which
he had advanced)--denaturalized him. He would often weigh
and consider for hours together the meaning of such and such
a deed or phrase of hers, when a blunt settling question
would formerly have been his first instinct. And now,
uneasy at the thought of a passion for Farfrae which should
entirely displace her mild filial sympathy with himself, he
observed her going and coming more narrowly.
There was nothing secret in Elizabeth-Jane's movements
beyond what habitual reserve induced, and it may at once be
owned on her account that she was guilty of occasional
conversations with Donald when they chanced to meet.
Whatever the origin of her walks on the Budmouth Road, her
return from those walks was often coincident with Farfrae's
emergence from corn Street for a twenty minutes' blow on
that rather windy highway--just to winnow the seeds and
chaff out of him before sitting down to tea, as he said.
Henchard became aware of this by going to the Ring, and,
screened by its enclosure, keeping his eye upon the road
till he saw them meet. His face assumed an expression of
extreme anguish.
"Of her, too, he means to rob me!" he whispered. "But he
has the right. I do not wish to interfere."
The meeting, in truth, was of a very innocent kind, and
matters were by no means so far advanced between the young
people as Henchard's jealous grief inferred. Could he have
heard such conversation as passed he would have been
enlightened thus much:--
HE.--"You like walking this way, Miss Henchard--and is
it not so?" (uttered in his undulatory accents, and with an
appraising, pondering gaze at her).
SHE.--"O yes. I have chosen this road latterly. I have
no great reason for it."
HE.--"But that may make a reason for others."
SHE (reddening).--"I don't know that. My reason,
however, such as it is, is that I wish to get a glimpse of
the sea every day.
HE.--"Is it a secret why?"
SHE ( reluctantly ).--"Yes."
HE (with the pathos of one of his native ballads).--"Ah,
I doubt there will be any good in secrets! A secret cast a
deep shadow over my life. And well you know what it was."
Elizabeth admitted that she did, but she refrained from
confessing why the sea attracted her. She could not herself
account for it fully, not knowing the secret possibly to be
that, in addition to early marine associations, her blood
was a sailor's.
"Thank you for those new books, Mr. Farfrae," she added
shyly. "I wonder if I ought to accept so many!"
"Ay! why not? It gives me more pleasure to get them for you,
than you to have them!"
"It cannot."
They proceeded along the road together till they reached the
town, and their paths diverged.
Henchard vowed that he would leave them to their own
devices, put nothing in the way of their courses, whatever
they might mean. If he were doomed to be bereft of
her, so it must be. In the situation which their marriage
would create he could see no locus standi for himself at
all. Farfrae would never recognize him more than
superciliously; his poverty ensured that, no less than his
past conduct. And so Elizabeth would grow to be a stranger
to him, and the end of his life would be friendless
With such a possibility impending he could not help
watchfulness. Indeed, within certain lines, he had the
right to keep an eye upon her as his charge. The meetings
seemed to become matters of course with them on special days
of the week.
At last full proof was given him. He was standing behind a
wall close to the place at which Farfrae encountered her.
He heard the young man address her as "Dearest ElizabethJane,"
and then kiss her, the girl looking quickly round to
assure herself that nobody was near.
When they were gone their way Henchard came out from the
wall, and mournfully followed them to Casterbridge. The
chief looming trouble in this engagement had not decreased.
Both Farfrae and Elizabeth-Jane, unlike the rest of the
people, must suppose Elizabeth to be his actual daughter,
from his own assertion while he himself had the same belief;
and though Farfrae must have so far forgiven him as to have
no objection to own him as a father-in-law, intimate they
could never be. Thus would the girl, who was his only
friend, be withdrawn from him by degrees through her
husband's influence, and learn to despise him.
Had she lost her heart to any other man in the world than
the one he had rivalled, cursed, wrestled with for life in
days before his spirit was broken, Henchard would have said,
"I am content." But content with the prospect as now
depicted was hard to acquire.
There is an outer chamber of the brain in which thoughts
unowned, unsolicited, and of noxious kind, are sometimes
allowed to wander for a moment prior to being sent off
whence they came. One of these thoughts sailed into
Henchard's ken now.
Suppose he were to communicate to Farfrae the fact that his
betrothed was not the child of Michael Henchard at all--
legally, nobody's child; how would that correct and leading
townsman receive the information? He might possibly forsake
Elizabeth-Jane, and then she would be her step-sire's own
Henchard shuddered, and exclaimed, "God forbid such a thing!
Why should I still be subject to these visitations of the
devil, when I try so hard to keep him away?"
What Henchard saw thus early was, naturally enough, seen at
a little later date by other people. That Mr. Farfrae
"walked with that bankrupt Henchard's step-daughter, of all
women," became a common topic in the town, the simple
perambulating term being used hereabout to signify a wooing;
and the nineteen superior young ladies of Casterbridge, who
had each looked upon herself as the only woman capable of
making the merchant Councilman happy, indignantly left off
going to the church Farfrae attended, left off conscious
mannerisms, left off putting him in their prayers at night
amongst their blood relations; in short, reverted to their
normal courses.
Perhaps the only inhabitants of the town to whom this
looming choice of the Scotchman's gave unmixed satisfaction
were the members of the philosophic party, which included
Longways, Christopher Coney, Billy Wills, Mr. Buzzford, and
the like. The Three Mariners having been, years before, the
house in which they had witnessed the young man and woman's
first and humble appearance on the Casterbridge stage, they
took a kindly interest in their career, not unconnected,
perhaps, with visions of festive treatment at their hands
hereafter. Mrs. Stannidge, having rolled into the large
parlour one evening and said that it was a wonder such a man
as Mr. Farfrae, "a pillow of the town," who might have
chosen one of the daughters of the professional men or
private residents, should stoop so low, Coney ventured to
disagree with her.
"No, ma'am, no wonder at all. 'Tis she that's a
stooping to he--that's my opinion. A widow man--whose first
wife was no credit to him--what is it for a young perusing
woman that's her own mistress and well liked? But as a neat
patching up of things I see much good in it. When a man
have put up a tomb of best marble-stone to the other one, as
he've done, and weeped his fill, and thought it all over,
and said to hisself, 'T'other took me in, I knowed this one
first; she's a sensible piece for a partner, and there's no
faithful woman in high life now';--well, he may do worse
than not to take her, if she's tender-inclined."
Thus they talked at the Mariners. But we must guard against
a too liberal use of the conventional declaration that a
great sensation was caused by the prospective event, that
all the gossips' tongues were set wagging thereby, and soon,
even though such a declaration might lend some eclat to
the career of our poor only heroine. When all has been said
about busy rumourers, a superficial and temporary thing is
the interest of anybody in affairs which do not directly
touch them. It would be a truer representation to say that
Casterbridge (ever excepting the nineteen young ladies)
looked up for a moment at the news, and withdrawing its
attention, went on labouring and victualling, bringing up
its children, and burying its dead, without caring a tittle
for Farfrae's domestic plans.
Not a hint of the matter was thrown out to her stepfather by
Elizabeth herself or by Farfrae either. Reasoning on the
cause of their reticence he concluded that, estimating him
by his past, the throbbing pair were afraid to broach the
subject, and looked upon him as an irksome obstacle whom
they would be heartily glad to get out of the way.
Embittered as he was against society, this moody view of
himself took deeper and deeper hold of Henchard, till the
daily necessity of facing mankind, and of them particularly
Elizabeth-Jane, became well-nigh more than he could endure.
His health declined; he became morbidly sensitive. He
wished he could escape those who did not want him, and hide
his head for ever.
But what if he were mistaken in his views, and there were no
necessity that his own absolute separation from her
should be involved in the incident of her marriage?
He proceeded to draw a picture of the alternative--himself
living like a fangless lion about the back rooms of a house
in which his stepdaughter was mistress, an inoffensive old
man, tenderly smiled on by Elizabeth, and good-naturedly
tolerated by her husband. It was terrible to his pride to
think of descending so low; and yet, for the girl's sake he
might put up with anything; even from Farfrae; even
snubbings and masterful tongue-scourgings. The privilege of
being in the house she occupied would almost outweigh the
personal humiliation.
Whether this were a dim possibility or the reverse, the
courtship--which it evidently now was--had an absorbing
interest for him.
Elizabeth, as has been said, often took her walks on the
Budmouth Road, and Farfrae as often made it convenient to
create an accidental meeting with her there. Two miles out,
a quarter of a mile from the highway, was the prehistoric
fort called Mai Dun, of huge dimensions and many ramparts,
within or upon whose enclosures a human being as seen from
the road, was but an insignificant speck. Hitherward
Henchard often resorted, glass in hand, and scanned the
hedgeless Via--for it was the original track laid out by
the legions of the Empire--to a distance of two or three
miles, his object being to read the progress of affairs
between Farfrae and his charmer.
One day Henchard was at this spot when a masculine figure
came along the road from Budmouth, and lingered. Applying
his telescope to his eye Henchard expected that Farfrae's
features would be disclosed as usual. But the lenses
revealed that today the man was not Elizabeth-Jane's lover.
It was one clothed as a merchant captain, and as he turned
in the scrutiny of the road he revealed his face. Henchard
lived a lifetime the moment he saw it. The face was
Henchard dropped the glass, and for some seconds made no
other movement. Newson waited, and Henchard waited--if that
could be called a waiting which was a transfixture. But
Elizabeth-Jane did not come. Something or other had caused
her to neglect her customary walk that day. Perhaps
Farfrae and she had chosen another road for variety's
sake. But what did that amount to? She might be here tomorrow,
and in any case Newson, if bent on a private meeting
and a revelation of the truth to her, would soon make his
Then he would tell her not only of his paternity, but of the
ruse by which he had been once sent away. Elizabeth's
strict nature would cause her for the first time to despise
her stepfather, would root out his image as that of an archdeceiver,
and Newson would reign in her heart in his stead.
But Newson did not see anything of her that morning. Having
stood still awhile he at last retraced his steps, and
Henchard felt like a condemned man who has a few hours'
respite. When he reached his own house he found her there.
"O father!" she said innocently. "I have had a letter--a
strange one--not signed. Somebody has asked me to meet him,
either on the Budmouth Road at noon today, or in the evening
at Mr. Farfrae's. He says he came to see me some time ago,
but a trick was played him, so that he did not see me. I
don't understand it; but between you and me I think Donald
is at the bottom of the mystery, and that it is a relation
of his who wants to pass an opinion on his choice. But I
did not like to go till I had seen you. Shall I go?"
Henchard replied heavily, "Yes; go."
The question of his remaining in Casterbridge was for ever
disposed of by this closing in of Newson on the scene.
Henchard was not the man to stand the certainty of
condemnation on a matter so near his heart. And being an
old hand at bearing anguish in silence, and haughty withal,
he resolved to make as light as he could of his intentions,
while immediately taking his measures.
He surprised the young woman whom he had looked upon as his
all in this world by saying to her, as if he did not care
about her more: "I am going to leave Casterbridge,
"Leave Casterbridge!" she cried, "and leave--me?"
"Yes, this little shop can be managed by you alone as well
as by us both; I don't care about shops and streets and
folk--I would rather get into the country by myself, out of
sight, and follow my own ways, and leave you to yours."
She looked down and her tears fell silently. It seemed
to her that this resolve of his had come on account of her
attachment and its probable result. She showed her devotion
to Farfrae, however, by mastering her emotion and speaking
"I am sorry you have decided on this," she said with
difficult firmness. "For I thought it probable--possible--
that I might marry Mr. Farfrae some little time hence, and I
did not know that you disapproved of the step!"
"I approve of anything you desire to do, Izzy," said
Henchard huskily. "If I did not approve it would be no
matter! I wish to go away. My presence might make things
awkward in the future, and, in short, it is best that I go."
Nothing that her affection could urge would induce him to
reconsider his determination; for she could not urge what
she did not know--that when she should learn he was not
related to her other than as a step-parent she would refrain
from despising him, and that when she knew what he had done
to keep her in ignorance she would refrain from hating him.
It was his conviction that she would not so refrain; and
there existed as yet neither word nor event which could
argue it away.
"Then," she said at last, "you will not be able to come to
my wedding; and that is not as it ought to be."
"I don't want to see it--I don't want to see it!" he
exclaimed; adding more softly, "but think of me sometimes in
your future life--you'll do that, Izzy?--think of me when
you are living as the wife of the richest, the foremost man
in the town, and don't let my sins, WHEN YOU KNOW THEM
ALL, cause 'ee to quite forget that though I loved 'ee late
I loved 'ee well."
"It is because of Donald!" she sobbed.
"I don't forbid you to marry him," said Henchard. "Promise
not to quite forget me when----" He meant when Newson should
She promised mechanically, in her agitation; and the same
evening at dusk Henchard left the town, to whose development
he had been one of the chief stimulants for many years.
During the day he had bought a new tool-basket, cleaned up
his old hay-knife and wimble, set himself up in fresh
leggings, kneenaps and corduroys, and in other ways
gone back to the working clothes of his young manhood,
discarding for ever the shabby-genteel suit of cloth and
rusty silk hat that since his decline had characterized him
in the Casterbridge street as a man who had seen better
He went secretly and alone, not a soul of the many who had
known him being aware of his departure. Elizabeth-Jane
accompanied him as far as the second bridge on the highway--
for the hour of her appointment with the unguessed visitor
at Farfrae's had not yet arrived--and parted from him with
unfeigned wonder and sorrow, keeping him back a minute or
two before finally letting him go. She watched his form
diminish across the moor, the yellow rush-basket at his back
moving up and down with each tread, and the creases behind
his knees coming and going alternately till she could no
longer see them. Though she did not know it Henchard formed
at this moment much the same picture as he had presented
when entering Casterbridge for the first time nearly a
quarter of a century before; except, to be sure, that the
serious addition to his years had considerably lessened the
spring to his stride, that his state of hopelessness had
weakened him, and imparted to his shoulders, as weighted by
the basket, a perceptible bend.
He went on till he came to the first milestone, which stood
in the bank, half way up a steep hill. He rested his basket
on the top of the stone, placed his elbows on it, and gave
way to a convulsive twitch, which was worse than a sob,
because it was so hard and so dry.
"If I had only got her with me--if I only had!" he said.
"Hard work would be nothing to me then! But that was not to
be. I--Cain--go alone as I deserve--an outcast and a
vagabond. But my punishment is not greater than I can
He sternly subdued his anguish, shouldered his basket, and
went on.
Elizabeth, in the meantime, had breathed him a sigh,
recovered her equanimity, and turned her face to
Casterbridge. Before she had reached the first house she
was met in her walk by Donald Farfrae. This was evidently
not their first meeting that day; they joined hands without
ceremony, and Farfrae anxiously asked, "And is he gone--
and did you tell him?--I mean of the other matter--not of
"He is gone; and I told him all I knew of your friend.
Donald, who is he?"
"Well, well, dearie; you will know soon about that. And Mr.
Henchard will hear of it if he does not go far."
"He will go far--he's bent upon getting out of sight and
She walked beside her lover, and when they reached the
Crossways, or Bow, turned with him into Corn Street instead
of going straight on to her own door. At Farfrae's house
they stopped and went in.
Farfrae flung open the door of the ground-floor sittingroom,
saying, "There he is waiting for you," and Elizabeth
entered. In the arm-chair sat the broad-faced genial man
who had called on Henchard on a memorable morning between
one and two years before this time, and whom the latter had
seen mount the coach and depart within half-an-hour of his
arrival. It was Richard Newson. The meeting with the
light-hearted father from whom she had been separated halfa-
dozen years, as if by death, need hardly be detailed. It
was an affecting one, apart from the question of paternity.
Henchard's departure was in a moment explained. When the
true facts came to be handled the difficulty of restoring
her to her old belief in Newson was not so great as might
have seemed likely, for Henchard's conduct itself was a
proof that those facts were true. Moreover, she had grown
up under Newson's paternal care; and even had Henchard been
her father in nature, this father in early domiciliation
might almost have carried the point against him, when the
incidents of her parting with Henchard had a little worn
Newson's pride in what she had grown up to be was more than
he could express. He kissed her again and again.
"I've saved you the trouble to come and meet me--ha-ha!"
said Newson. "The fact is that Mr. Farfrae here, he said,
'Come up and stop with me for a day or two, Captain Newson,
and I'll bring her round.' 'Faith,' says I, 'so I will'; and
here I am."
"Well, Henchard is gone," said Farfrae, shutting the door.
"He has done it all voluntarily, and, as I gather from
Elizabeth, he has been very nice with her. I was got
rather uneasy; but all is as it should be, and we will have
no more deefficulties at all."
"Now, that's very much as I thought," said Newson, looking
into the face of each by turns. "I said to myself, ay, a
hundred times, when I tried to get a peep at her unknown to
herself--'Depend upon it, 'tis best that I should live on
quiet for a few days like this till something turns up for
the better.' I now know you are all right, and what can I
wish for more?"
"Well, Captain Newson, I will be glad to see ye here every
day now, since it can do no harm," said Farfrae. "And what
I've been thinking is that the wedding may as well be kept
under my own roof, the house being large, and you being in
lodgings by yourself--so that a great deal of trouble and
expense would be saved ye?--and 'tis a convenience when a
couple's married not to hae far to go to get home!"
"With all my heart," said Captain Newson; "since, as ye say,
it can do no harm, now poor Henchard's gone; though I
wouldn't have done it otherwise, or put myself in his way at
all; for I've already in my lifetime been an intruder into
his family quite as far as politeness can be expected to put
up with. But what do the young woman say herself about it?
Elizabeth, my child, come and hearken to what we be talking
about, and not bide staring out o' the window as if ye
didn't hear.'
"Donald and you must settle it," murmured Elizabeth, still
keeping up a scrutinizing gaze at some small object in the
"Well, then," continued Newson, turning anew to Farfrae with
a face expressing thorough entry into the subject, "that's
how we'll have it. And, Mr. Farfrae, as you provide so
much, and houseroom, and all that, I'll do my part in the
drinkables, and see to the rum and schiedam--maybe a dozen
jars will be sufficient?--as many of the folk will be
ladies, and perhaps they won't drink hard enough to make a
high average in the reckoning? But you know best. I've
provided for men and shipmates times enough, but I'm as
ignorant as a child how many glasses of grog a woman, that's
not a drinking woman, is expected to consume at these
"Oh, none--we'll no want much of that--O no!" said Farfrae,
shaking his head with appalled gravity. "Do you leave all
to me."
When they had gone a little further in these particulars
Newson, leaning back in his chair and smiling reflectively
at the ceiling, said, "I've never told ye, or have I, Mr.
Farfrae, how Henchard put me off the scent that time?"
He expressed ignorance of what the Captain alluded to.
"Ah, I thought I hadn't. I resolved that I would not, I
remember, not to hurt the man's name. But now he's gone I
can tell ye. Why, I came to Casterbridge nine or ten months
before that day last week that I found ye out. I had been
here twice before then. The first time I passed through the
town on my way westward, not knowing Elizabeth lived here.
Then hearing at some place--I forget where--that a man of
the name of Henchard had been mayor here, I came back, and
called at his house one morning. The old rascal!--he said
Elizabeth-Jane had died years ago."
Elizabeth now gave earnest heed to his story.
"Now, it never crossed my mind that the man was selling me a
packet," contiued Newson. "And, if you'll believe me, I was
that upset, that I went back to the coach that had brought
me, and took passage onward without lying in the town halfan-
hour. Ha-ha!--'twas a good joke, and well carried out,
and I give the man credit for't!"
Elizabeth-Jane was amazed at the intelligence. "A joke?--O
no!" she cried. "Then he kept you from me, father, all
those months, when you might have been here?"
The father admitted that such was the case.
"He ought not to have done it!" said Farfrae.
Elizabeth sighed. "I said I would never forget him. But O!
I think I ought to forget him now!"
Newson, like a good many rovers and sojourners among strange
men and strange moralities, failed to perceive the enormity
of Henchard's crime, notwithstanding that he himself had
been the chief sufferer therefrom. Indeed, the attack upon
the absent culprit waxing serious, he began to take
Henchard's part.
"Well, 'twas not ten words that he said, after all," Newson
pleaded. "And how could he know that I should be such
a simpleton as to believe him? 'Twas as much my fault as
his, poor fellow!"
"No," said Elizabeth-Jane firmly, in her revulsion of
feeling. "He knew your disposition--you always were so
trusting, father; I've heard my mother say so hundreds of
times--and he did it to wrong you. After weaning me from
you these five years by saying he was my father, he should
not have done this."
Thus they conversed; and there was nobody to set before
Elizabeth any extenuation of the absent one's deceit. Even
had he been present Henchard might scarce have pleaded it,
so little did he value himself or his good name.
"Well, well--never mind--it is all over and past," said
Newson good-naturedly. "Now, about this wedding again."
Meanwhile, the man of their talk had pursued his solitary
way eastward till weariness overtook him, and he looked
about for a place of rest. His heart was so exacerbated at
parting from the girl that he could not face an inn, or even
a household of the most humble kind; and entering a field he
lay down under a wheatrick, feeling no want of food. The
very heaviness of his soul caused him to sleep profoundly.
The bright autumn sun shining into his eyes across the
stubble awoke him the next morning early. He opened his
basket and ate for his breakfast what he had packed for his
supper; and in doing so overhauled the remainder of his kit.
Although everything he brought necessitated carriage at his
own back, he had secreted among his tools a few of
Elizabeth-Jane's cast-off belongings, in the shape of
gloves, shoes, a scrap of her handwriting, and the like, and
in his pocket he carried a curl of her hair. Having looked
at these things he closed them up again, and went onward.
During five consecutive days Henchard's rush basket rode
along upon his shoulder between the highway hedges, the new
yellow of the rushes catching the eye of an occasional
field-labourer as he glanced through the quickset,
together with the wayfarer's hat and head, and down-turned
face, over which the twig shadows moved in endless
procession. It now became apparent that the direction of
his journey was Weydon Priors, which he reached on the
afternoon of the sixth day.
The renowned hill whereon the annual fair had been held for
so many generations was now bare of human beings, and almost
of aught besides. A few sheep grazed thereabout, but these
ran off when Henchard halted upon the summit. He deposited
his basket upon the turf, and looked about with sad
curiosity; till he discovered the road by which his wife and
himself had entered on the upland so memorable to both,
five-and-twenty years before.
"Yes, we came up that way," he said, after ascertaining his
bearings. "She was carrying the baby, and I was reading a
ballet-sheet. Then we crossed about here--she so sad and
weary, and I speaking to her hardly at all, because of my
cursed pride and mortification at being poor. Then we saw
the tent--that must have stood more this way." He walked to
another spot, it was not really where the tent had stood but
it seemed so to him. "Here we went in, and here we sat
down. I faced this way. Then I drank, and committed my
crime. It must have been just on that very pixy-ring that
she was standing when she said her last words to me before
going off with him; I can hear their sound now, and the
sound of her sobs: 'O Mike! I've lived with thee all this
while, and had nothing but temper. Now I'm no more to 'ee--
I'll try my luck elsewhere.'"
He experienced not only the bitterness of a man who finds,
in looking back upon an ambitious course, that what he has
sacrificed in sentiment was worth as much as what he has
gained in substance; but the superadded bitterness of seeing
his very recantation nullified. He had been sorry for all
this long ago; but his attempts to replace ambition by love
had been as fully foiled as his ambition itself. His
wronged wife had foiled them by a fraud so grandly simple as
to be almost a virtue. It was an odd sequence that out of
all this tampering with social law came that flower of
Nature, Elizabeth. Part of his wish to wash his hands of
life arose from his perception of its contrarious
inconsistencies--of Nature's jaunty readiness to support
unorthodox social principles.
He intended to go on from this place--visited as an act of
penance--into another part of the country altogether. But
he could not help thinking of Elizabeth, and the quarter of
the horizon in which she lived. Out of this it happened
that the centrifugal tendency imparted by weariness of the
world was counteracted by the centripetal influence of his
love for his stepdaughter. As a consequence, instead of
following a straight course yet further away from
Casterbridge, Henchard gradually, almost unconsciously,
deflected from that right line of his first intention; till,
by degrees, his wandering, like that of the Canadian
woodsman, became part of a circle of which Casterbridge
formed the centre. In ascending any particular hill he
ascertained the bearings as nearly as he could by means of
the sun, moon, or stars, and settled in his mind the exact
direction in which Casterbridge and Elizabeth-Jane lay.
Sneering at himself for his weakness he yet every hour--nay,
every few minutes--conjectured her actions for the time
being--her sitting down and rising up, her goings and
comings, till thought of Newson's and Farfrae's counterinfluence
would pass like a cold blast over a pool, and
efface her image. And then he would say to himself, "O you
fool! All this about a daughter who is no daughter of
At length he obtained employment at his own occupation of
hay-trusser, work of that sort being in demand at this
autumn time. The scene of his hiring was a pastoral farm
near the old western highway, whose course was the channel
of all such communications as passed between the busy
centres of novelty and the remote Wessex boroughs. He had
chosen the neighbourhood of this artery from a sense that,
situated here, though at a distance of fifty miles, he was
virtually nearer to her whose welfare was so dear than he
would be at a roadless spot only half as remote.
And thus Henchard found himself again on the precise
standing which he had occupied a quarter of a century
before. Externally there was nothing to hinder his making
another start on the upward slope, and by his new lights
achieving higher things than his soul in its halfformed
state had been able to accomplish. But the ingenious
machinery contrived by the Gods for reducing human
possibilities of amelioration to a minimum--which arranges
that wisdom to do shall come pari passu with the
departure of zest for doing--stood in the way of all that.
He had no wish to make an arena a second time of a world
that had become a mere painted scene to him.
Very often, as his hay-knife crunched down among the sweetsmelling
grassy stems, he would survey mankind and say to
himself: "Here and everywhere be folk dying before their
time like frosted leaves, though wanted by their families,
the country, and the world; while I, an outcast, an
encumberer of the ground, wanted by nobody, and despised by
all, live on against my will!"
He often kept an eager ear upon the conversation of those
who passed along the road--not from a general curiosity by
any means--but in the hope that among these travellers
between Casterbridge and London some would, sooner or later,
speak of the former place. The distance, however, was too
great to lend much probability to his desire; and the
highest result of his attention to wayside words was that he
did indeed hear the name "Casterbridge" uttered one day by
the driver of a road-waggon. Henchard ran to the gate of
the field he worked in, and hailed the speaker, who was a
"Yes--I've come from there, maister," he said, in answer to
Henchard's inquiry. "I trade up and down, ye know; though,
what with this travelling without horses that's getting so
common, my work will soon be done."
"Anything moving in the old place, mid I ask?"
"All the same as usual."
"I've heard that Mr. Farfrae, the late mayor, is thinking of
getting married. Now is that true or not?"
"I couldn't say for the life o' me. O no, I should think
"But yes, John--you forget," said a woman inside the waggontilt.
"What were them packages we carr'd there at the
beginning o' the week? Surely they said a wedding was coming
off soon--on Martin's Day?"
The man declared he remembered nothing about it; and
the waggon went on jangling over the hill.
Henchard was convinced that the woman's memory served her
well. The date was an extremely probable one, there being
no reason for delay on either side. He might, for that
matter, write and inquire of Elizabeth; but his instinct for
sequestration had made the course difficult. Yet before he
left her she had said that for him to be absent from her
wedding was not as she wished it to be.
The remembrance would continually revive in him now that it
was not Elizabeth and Farfrae who had driven him away from
them, but his own haughty sense that his presence was no
longer desired. He had assumed the return of Newson without
absolute proof that the Captain meant to return; still less
that Elizabeth-Jane would welcome him; and with no proof
whatever that if he did return he would stay. What if he
had been mistaken in his views; if there had been no
necessity that his own absolute separation from her he loved
should be involved in these untoward incidents? To make one
more attempt to be near her: to go back, to see her, to
plead his cause before her, to ask forgiveness for his
fraud, to endeavour strenuously to hold his own in her love;
it was worth the risk of repulse, ay, of life itself.
But how to initiate this reversal of all his former resolves
without causing husband and wife to despise him for his
inconsistency was a question which made him tremble and
He cut and cut his trusses two days more, and then he
concluded his hesitancies by a sudden reckless determination
to go to the wedding festivity. Neither writing nor message
would be expected of him. She had regretted his decision to
be absent--his unanticipated presence would fill the little
unsatisfied corner that would probably have place in her
just heart without him.
To intrude as little of his personality as possible upon a
gay event with which that personality could show nothing in
keeping, he decided not to make his appearance till evening--
when stiffness would have worn off, and a gentle wish to
let bygones be bygones would exercise its sway in all
He started on foot, two mornings before St. Martin's-tide,
allowing himself about sixteen miles to perform for
each of the three days' journey, reckoning the wedding-day
as one. There were only two towns, Melchester and
Shottsford, of any importance along his course, and at the
latter he stopped on the second night, not only to rest, but
to prepare himself for the next evening.
Possessing no clothes but the working suit he stood in--now
stained and distorted by their two months of hard usage, he
entered a shop to make some purchases which should put him,
externally at any rate, a little in harmony with the
prevailing tone of the morrow. A rough yet respectable coat
and hat, a new shirt and neck-cloth, were the chief of
these; and having satisfied himself that in appearance at
least he would not now offend her, he proceeded to the more
interesting particular of buying her some present.
What should that present be? He walked up and down the
street, regarding dubiously the display in the shop windows,
from a gloomy sense that what he might most like to give her
would be beyond his miserable pocket. At length a caged
goldfinch met his eye. The cage was a plain and small one,
the shop humble, and on inquiry he concluded he could afford
the modest sum asked. A sheet of newspaper was tied round
the little creature's wire prison, and with the wrapped up
cage in his hand Henchard sought a lodging for the night.
Next day he set out upon the last stage, and was soon within
the district which had been his dealing ground in bygone
years. Part of the distance he travelled by carrier,
seating himself in the darkest corner at the back of that
trader's van; and as the other passengers, mainly women
going short journeys, mounted and alighted in front of
Henchard, they talked over much local news, not the least
portion of this being the wedding then in course of
celebration at the town they were nearing. It appeared from
their accounts that the town band had been hired for the
evening party, and, lest the convivial instincts of that
body should get the better of their skill, the further step
had been taken of engaging the string band from Budmouth, so
that there would be a reserve of harmony to fall back upon
in case of need.
He heard, however, but few particulars beyond those
known to him already, the incident of the deepest interest
on the journey being the soft pealing of the Casterbridge
bells, which reached the travellers' ears while the van
paused on the top of Yalbury Hill to have the drag lowered.
The time was just after twelve o'clock.
Those notes were a signal that all had gone well; that there
had been no slip 'twixt cup and lip in this case; that
Elizabeth-Jane and Donald Farfrae were man and wife.
Henchard did not care to ride any further with his
chattering companions after hearing this sound. Indeed, it
quite unmanned him; and in pursuance of his plan of not
showing himself in Casterbridge street till evening, lest he
should mortify Farfrae and his bride, he alighted here, with
his bundle and bird-cage, and was soon left as a lonely
figure on the broad white highway.
It was the hill near which he had waited to meet Farfrae,
almost two years earlier, to tell him of the serious illness
of his wife Lucetta. The place was unchanged; the same
larches sighed the same notes; but Farfrae had another wife--
and, as Henchard knew, a better one. He only hoped that
Elizabeth-Jane had obtained a better home than had been hers
at the former time.
He passed the remainder of the afternoon in a curious highstrung
condition, unable to do much but think of the
approaching meeting with her, and sadly satirize himself for
his emotions thereon, as a Samson shorn. Such an innovation
on Casterbridge customs as a flitting of bridegroom and
bride from the town immediately after the ceremony, was not
likely, but if it should have taken place he would wait till
their return. To assure himself on this point he asked a
market-man when near the borough if the newly-married couple
had gone away, and was promptly informed that they had not;
they were at that hour, according to all accounts,
entertaining a houseful of guests at their home in Corn
Henchard dusted his boots, washed his hands at the
riverside, and proceeded up the town under the feeble lamps.
He need have made no inquiries beforehand, for on drawing
near Farfrae's residence it was plain to the least observant
that festivity prevailed within, and that Donald
himself shared it, his voice being distinctly audible in the
street, giving strong expression to a song of his dear
native country that he loved so well as never to have
revisited it. Idlers were standing on the pavement in
front; and wishing to escape the notice of these Henchard
passed quickly on to the door.
It was wide open, the hall was lighted extravagantly, and
people were going up and down the stairs. His courage
failed him; to enter footsore, laden, and poorly dressed
into the midst of such resplendency was to bring needless
humiliation upon her he loved, if not to court repulse from
her husband. Accordingly he went round into the street at
the back that he knew so well, entered the garden, and came
quietly into the house through the kitchen, temporarily
depositing the bird and cage under a bush outside, to lessen
the awkwardness of his arrival.
Solitude and sadness had so emolliated Henchard that he now
feared circumstances he would formerly have scorned, and he
began to wish that he had not taken upon himself to arrive
at such a juncture. However, his progress was made
unexpectedly easy by his discovering alone in the kitchen an
elderly woman who seemed to be acting as provisional
housekeeper during the convulsions from which Farfrae's
establishment was just then suffering. She was one of those
people whom nothing surprises, and though to her, a total
stranger, his request must have seemed odd, she willingly
volunteered to go up and inform the master and mistress of
the house that "a humble old friend" had come.
On second thought she said that he had better not wait in
the kitchen, but come up into the little back-parlour, which
was empty. He thereupon followed her thither, and she left
him. Just as she got across the landing to the door of the
best parlour a dance was struck up, and she returned to say
that she would wait till that was over before announcing
him--Mr. and Mrs. Farfrae having both joined in the figure.
The door of the front room had been taken off its hinges to
give more space, and that of the room Henchard sat in being
ajar, he could see fractional parts of the dancers whenever
their gyrations brought them near the doorway, chiefly in
the shape of the skirts of dresses and streaming curls of
hair; together with about three-fifths of the band in
profile, including the restless shadow of a fiddler's elbow,
and the tip of the bass-viol bow.
The gaiety jarred upon Henchard's spirits; and he could not
quite understand why Farfrae, a much-sobered man, and a
widower, who had had his trials, should have cared for it
all, notwithstanding the fact that he was quite a young man
still, and quickly kindled to enthusiasm by dance and song.
That the quiet Elizabeth, who had long ago appraised life at
a moderate value, and who knew in spite of her maidenhood
that marriage was as a rule no dancing matter, should have
had zest for this revelry surprised him still more.
However, young people could not be quite old people, he
concluded, and custom was omnipotent.
With the progress of the dance the performers spread out
somewhat, and then for the first time he caught a glimpse of
the once despised daughter who had mastered him, and made
his heart ache. She was in a dress of white silk or satin,
he was not near enough to say which--snowy white, without a
tinge of milk or cream; and the expression of her face was
one of nervous pleasure rather than of gaiety. Presently
Farfrae came round, his exuberant Scotch movement making him
conspicuous in a moment. The pair were not dancing
together, but Henchard could discern that whenever the
chances of the figure made them the partners of a moment
their emotions breathed a much subtler essence than at other
By degrees Henchard became aware that the measure was trod
by some one who out-Farfraed Farfrae in saltatory
intenseness. This was strange, and it was stranger to find
that the eclipsing personage was Elizabeth-Jane's partner.
The first time that Henchard saw him he was sweeping grandly
round, his head quivering and low down, his legs in the form
of an X and his back towards the door. The next time he
came round in the other direction, his white waist-coat
preceding his face, and his toes preceding his white
waistcoat. That happy face--Henchard's complete
discomfiture lay in it. It was Newson's, who had indeed
come and supplanted him.
Henchard pushed to the door, and for some seconds made
no other movement. He rose to his feet, and stood like
a dark ruin, obscured by "the shade from his own soul upthrown."
But he was no longer the man to stand these reverses
unmoved. His agitation was great, and he would fain have
been gone, but before he could leave the dance had ended,
the housekeeper had informed Elizabeth-Jane of the stranger
who awaited her, and she entered the room immediately.
"Oh--it is--Mr. Henchard!" she said, starting back.
"What, Elizabeth?" he cried, as she seized her hand. "What
do you say?--Mr. Henchard? Don't, don't scourge me like
that! Call me worthless old Henchard--anything--but don't
'ee be so cold as this! O my maid--I see you have another--a
real father in my place. Then you know all; but don't give
all your thought to him! Do ye save a little room for me!"
She flushed up, and gently drew her hand away. "I could
have loved you always--I would have, gladly," she said.
"But how can I when I know you have deceived me so--so
bitterly deceived me! You persuaded me that my father was
not my father--allowed me to live on in ignorance of the
truth for years; and then when he, my warm-hearted real
father, came to find me, cruelly sent him away with a wicked
invention of my death, which nearly broke his heart. O how
can I love as I once did a man who has served us like this!"
Henchard's lips half parted to begin an explanation. But he
shut them up like a vice, and uttered not a sound. How
should he, there and then, set before her with any effect
the palliatives of his great faults--that he had himself
been deceived in her identity at first, till informed by her
mother's letter that his own child had died; that, in the
second accusation, his lie had been the last desperate throw
of a gamester who loved her affection better than his own
honour? Among the many hindrances to such a pleading not the
least was this, that he did not sufficiently value himself
to lessen his sufferings by strenuous appeal or elaborate
Waiving, therefore, his privilege of self-defence, he
regarded only his discomposure. "Don't ye distress yourself
on my account," he said, with proud superiority. "I would
not wish it--at such a time, too, as this. I have done
wrong in coming to 'ee--I see my error. But it is only for
once, so forgive it. I'll never trouble 'ee again,
Elizabeth-Jane--no, not to my dying day! Good-night. Goodbye!"
Then, before she could collect her thoughts, Henchard went
out from her rooms, and departed from the house by the back
way as he had come; and she saw him no more.
It was about a month after the day which closed as in the
last chapter. Elizabeth-Jane had grown accustomed to the
novelty of her situation, and the only difference between
Donald's movements now and formerly was that he hastened
indoors rather more quickly after business hours than he had
been in the habit of doing for some time.
Newson had stayed in Casterbridge three days after the
wedding party (whose gaiety, as might have been surmised,
was of his making rather than of the married couple's), and
was stared at and honoured as became the returned Crusoe of
the hour. But whether or not because Casterbridge was
difficult to excite by dramatic returns and disappearances
through having been for centuries an assize town, in which
sensational exits from the world, antipodean absences, and
such like, were half-yearly occurrences, the inhabitants did
not altogether lose their equanimity on his account. On the
fourth morning he was discovered disconsolately climbing a
hill, in his craving to get a glimpse of the sea from
somewhere or other. The contiguity of salt water proved to
be such a necessity of his existence that he preferred
Budmouth as a place of residence, notwithstanding the
society of his daughter in the other town. Thither he went,
and settled in lodgings in a green-shuttered cottage which
had a bow-window, jutting out sufficiently to afford
glimpses of a vertical strip of blue sea to any one opening
the sash, and leaning forward far enough to look through a
narrow lane of tall intervening houses.
Elizabeth-Jane was standing in the middle of her
upstairs parlour, critically surveying some re-arrangement
of articles with her head to one side, when the housemaid
came in with the announcement, "Oh, please ma'am, we know
now how that bird-cage came there."
In exploring her new domain during the first week of
residence, gazing with critical satisfaction on this
cheerful room and that, penetrating cautiously into dark
cellars, sallying forth with gingerly tread to the garden,
now leaf-strewn by autumn winds, and thus, like a wise
field-marshal, estimating the capabilities of the site
whereon she was about to open her housekeeping campaign--
Mrs. Donald Farfrae had discovered in a screened corner a
new bird-cage, shrouded in newspaper, and at the bottom of
the cage a little ball of feathers--the dead body of a
goldfinch. Nobody could tell her how the bird and cage had
come there, though that the poor little songster had been
starved to death was evident. The sadness of the incident
had made an impression on her. She had not been able to
forget it for days, despite Farfrae's tender banter; and now
when the matter had been nearly forgotten it was again
"Oh, please ma'am, we know how the bird-cage came there.
That farmer's man who called on the evening of the wedding--
he was seen wi' it in his hand as he came up the street; and
'tis thoughted that he put it down while he came in with his
message, and then went away forgetting where he had left
This was enough to set Elizabeth thinking, and in thinking
she seized hold of the idea, at one feminine bound, that the
caged bird had been brought by Henchard for her as a wedding
gift and token of repentance. He had not expressed to her
any regrets or excuses for what he had done in the past; but
it was a part of his nature to extenuate nothing, and live
on as one of his own worst accusers. She went out, looked
at the cage, buried the starved little singer, and from that
hour her heart softened towards the self-alienated man.
When her husband came in she told him her solution of the
bird-cage mystery; and begged Donald to help her in finding
out, as soon as possible, whither Henchard had banished
himself, that she might make her peace with him; try to do
something to render his life less that of an outcast, and
more tolerable to him. Although Farfrae had never so
passionately liked Henchard as Henchard had liked him, he
had, on the other hand, never so passionately hated in the
same direction as his former friend had done, and he was
therefore not the least indisposed to assist Elizabeth-Jane
in her laudable plan.
But it was by no means easy to set about discovering
Henchard. He had apparently sunk into the earth on leaving
Mr. and Mrs. Farfrae's door. Elizabeth-Jane remembered what
he had once attempted; and trembled.
But though she did not know it Henchard had become a changed
man since then--as far, that is, as change of emotional
basis can justify such a radical phrase; and she needed not
to fear. In a few days Farfrae's inquiries elicited that
Henchard had been seen by one who knew him walking steadily
along the Melchester highway eastward, at twelve o'clock at
night--in other words, retracing his steps on the road by
which he had come.
This was enough; and the next morning Farfrae might have
been discovered driving his gig out of Casterbridge in that
direction, Elizabeth-Jane sitting beside him, wrapped in a
thick flat fur--the victorine of the period--her complexion
somewhat richer than formerly, and an incipient matronly
dignity, which the serene Minerva-eyes of one "whose
gestures beamed with mind" made becoming, settling on her
face. Having herself arrived at a promising haven from at
least the grosser troubles of her life, her object was to
place Henchard in some similar quietude before he should
sink into that lower stage of existence which was only too
possible to him now.
After driving along the highway for a few miles they made
further inquiries, and learnt of a road-mender, who had been
working thereabouts for weeks, that he had observed such a
man at the time mentioned; he had left the Melchester
coachroad at Weatherbury by a forking highway which skirted
the north of Egdon Heath. Into this road they directed the
horse's head, and soon were bowling across that ancient
country whose surface never had been stirred to a
finger's depth, save by the scratchings of rabbits,
since brushed by the feet of the earliest tribes. The
tumuli these had left behind, dun and shagged with heather,
jutted roundly into the sky from the uplands, as though they
were the full breasts of Diana Multimammia supinely extended
They searched Egdon, but found no Henchard. Farfrae drove
onward, and by the afternoon reached the neighbourhood of
some extension of the heath to the north of Anglebury, a
prominent feature of which, in the form of a blasted clump
of firs on a summit of a hill, they soon passed under. That
the road they were following had, up to this point, been
Henchard's track on foot they were pretty certain; but the
ramifications which now began to reveal themselves in the
route made further progress in the right direction a matter
of pure guess-work, and Donald strongly advised his wife to
give up the search in person, and trust to other means for
obtaining news of her stepfather. They were now a score of
miles at least from home, but, by resting the horse for a
couple of hours at a village they had just traversed, it
would be possible to get back to Casterbridge that same day,
while to go much further afield would reduce them to the
necessity of camping out for the night, "and that will make
a hole in a sovereign," said Farfrae. She pondered the
position, and agreed with him.
He accordingly drew rein, but before reversing their
direction paused a moment and looked vaguely round upon the
wide country which the elevated position disclosed. While
they looked a solitary human form came from under the clump
of trees, and crossed ahead of them. The person was some
labourer; his gait was shambling, his regard fixed in front
of him as absolutely as if he wore blinkers; and in his hand
he carried a few sticks. Having crossed the road he
descended into a ravine, where a cottage revealed itself,
which he entered.
"If it were not so far away from Casterbridge I should say
that must be poor Whittle. 'Tis just like him," observed
"And it may be Whittle, for he's never been to the yard
these three weeks, going away without saying any word at
all; and I owing him for two days' work, without
knowing who to pay it to."
The possibility led them to alight, and at least make an
inquiry at the cottage. Farfrae hitched the reins to the
gate-post, and they approached what was of humble dwellings
surely the humblest. The walls, built of kneaded clay
originally faced with a trowel, had been worn by years of
rain-washings to a lumpy crumbling surface, channelled and
sunken from its plane, its gray rents held together here and
there by a leafy strap of ivy which could scarcely find
substance enough for the purpose. The rafters were sunken,
and the thatch of the roof in ragged holes. Leaves from the
fence had been blown into the corners of the doorway, and
lay there undisturbed. The door was ajar; Farfrae knocked;
and he who stood before them was Whittle, as they had
His face showed marks of deep sadness, his eyes lighting on
them with an unfocused gaze; and he still held in his hand
the few sticks he had been out to gather. As soon as he
recognized them he started.
"What, Abel Whittle; is it that ye are heere?" said Farfrae.
"Ay, yes sir! You see he was kind-like to mother when she
wer here below, though 'a was rough to me."
"Who are you talking of?"
"O sir--Mr. Henchet! Didn't ye know it? He's just gone--
about half-an-hour ago, by the sun; for I've got no watch to
my name."
"Not--dead?" faltered Elizabeth-Jane.
"Yes, ma'am, he's gone! He was kind-like to mother when she
wer here below, sending her the best ship-coal, and hardly
any ashes from it at all; and taties, and such-like that
were very needful to her. I seed en go down street on the
night of your worshipful's wedding to the lady at yer side,
and I thought he looked low and faltering. And I followed
en over Grey's Bridge, and he turned and zeed me, and said,
'You go back!' But I followed, and he turned again, and
said, 'Do you hear, sir? Go back!' But I zeed that he was
low, and I followed on still. Then 'a said, 'Whittle, what
do ye follow me for when I've told ye to go back all these
times?' And I said, 'Because, sir, I see things be bad with
'ee, and ye wer kind-like to mother if ye wer rough to
me, and I would fain be kind-like to you.' Then he walked
on, and I followed; and he never complained at me no more.
We walked on like that all night; and in the blue o' the
morning, when 'twas hardly day, I looked ahead o' me, and I
zeed that he wambled, and could hardly drag along. By the
time we had got past here, but I had seen that this house
was empty as I went by, and I got him to come back; and I
took down the boards from the windows, and helped him
inside. 'What, Whittle,' he said, 'and can ye really be
such a poor fond fool as to care for such a wretch as I!'
Then I went on further, and some neighbourly woodmen lent me
a bed, and a chair, and a few other traps, and we brought
'em here, and made him as comfortable as we could. But he
didn't gain strength, for you see, ma'am, he couldn't eat--
no appetite at all--and he got weaker; and to-day he died.
One of the neighbours have gone to get a man to measure
"Dear me--is that so!" said Farfrae.
As for Elizabeth, she said nothing.
"Upon the head of his bed he pinned a piece of paper, with
some writing upon it," continued Abel Whittle. "But not
being a man o' letters, I can't read writing; so I don't
know what it is. I can get it and show ye."
They stood in silence while he ran into the cottage;
returning in a moment with a crumpled scrap of paper. On it
there was pencilled as follows:--
"That Elizabeth-Jane Farfrae be not told of my death, or
made to grieve on account of me.
"& that I be not bury'd in consecrated ground.
"& that no sexton be asked to toll the bell.
"& that nobody is wished to see my dead body.
"& that no murners walk behind me at my funeral.
"& that no flours be planted on my grave,
"& that no man remember me.
"To this I put my name.
"What are we to do?" said Donald, when he had handed
the paper to her.
She could not answer distinctly. "O Donald!" she cried at
last through her tears, "what bitterness lies there! O I
would not have minded so much if it had not been for my
unkindness at that last parting!...But there's no altering--
so it must be."
What Henchard had written in the anguish of his dying was
respected as far as practicable by Elizabeth-Jane, though
less from a sense of the sacredness of last words, as such,
than from her independent knowledge that the man who wrote
them meant what he said. She knew the directions to be a
piece of the same stuff that his whole life was made of, and
hence were not to be tampered with to give herself a
mournful pleasure, or her husband credit for largeheartedness.
All was over at last, even her regrets for having
misunderstood him on his last visit, for not having searched
him out sooner, though these were deep and sharp for a good
while. From this time forward Elizabeth-Jane found herself
in a latitude of calm weather, kindly and grateful in
itself, and doubly so after the Capharnaum in which some of
her preceding years had been spent. As the lively and
sparkling emotions of her early married live cohered into an
equable serenity, the finer movements of her nature found
scope in discovering to the narrow-lived ones around her the
secret (as she had once learnt it) of making limited
opportunities endurable; which she deemed to consist in the
cunning enlargement, by a species of microscopic treatment,
of those minute forms of satisfaction that offer themselves
to everybody not in positive pain; which, thus handled, have
much of the same inspiring effect upon life as wider
interests cursorily embraced.
Her teaching had a reflex action upon herself, insomuch that
she thought she could perceive no great personal difference
between being respected in the nether parts of Casterbridge
and glorified at the uppermost end of the social world. Her
position was, indeed, to a marked degree one that, in the
common phrase, afforded much to be thankful for. That she
was not demonstratively thankful was no fault of hers. Her
experience had been of a kind to teach her, rightly or
wrongly, that the doubtful honour of a brief transmit
through a sorry world hardly called for effusiveness, even
when the path was suddenly irradiated at some half-way point
by daybeams rich as hers. But her strong sense that neither
she nor any human being deserved less than was given, did
not blind her to the fact that there were others receiving
less who had deserved much more. And in being forced to
class herself among the fortunate she did not cease to
wonder at the persistence of the unforeseen, when the one to
whom such unbroken tranquility had been accorded in the
adult stage was she whose youth had seemed to teach that
happiness was but the occasional episode in a general drama
of pain.

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