Far From The Madding Crowd, by Thomas Hardy
Part 3 out of 10
man laughter -- caused by the flapping of the waters against
trifling objects in other parts of the stream.
The window was struck again in the same manner.
Then a noise was heard, apparently produced by the opening
of the window. This was followed by a voice from the same
The tones were masculine, and not those of surprise. The
high wall being that of a barrack, and marriage being looked
upon with disfavour in the army, assignations and
communications had probably been made across the river
"Is it Sergeant Troy?" said the blurred spot in the snow,
This person was so much like a mere shade upon the earth,
and the other speaker so much a part of the building, that
one would have said the wall was holding a conversation with
"Yes," came suspiciously from the shadow. "What girl are
"Oh, Frank -- don't you know me?" said the spot. "Your
wife, Fanny Robin."
"Fanny!" said the wall, in utter astonishment.
"Yes," said the girl, with a half-suppressed gasp of
There was something in the woman's tone which is not that of
the wife, and there was a manner in the man which is rarely
a husband's. The dialogue went on:
"How did you come here?"
"I asked which was your window. Forgive me!"
"I did not expect you to-night. Indeed, I did not think you
would come at all. It was a wonder you found me here. I am
"You said I was to come."
"Well -- I said that you might."
"Yes, I mean that I might. You are glad to see me, Frank?"
"Oh yes -- of course."
"Can you -- come to me!"
My dear Fan, no! The bugle has sounded, the barrack gates
are closed, and I have no leave. We are all of us as good
as in the county gaol till to-morrow morning."
"Then I shan't see you till then!" The words were in a
faltering tone of disappointment.
"How did you get here from Weatherbury?"
"I walked -- some part of the way -- the rest by the
"I am surprised."
"Yes -- so am I. And Frank, when will it be?"
"That you promised."
"I don't quite recollect."
"O you do! Don't speak like that. It weighs me to the
earth. It makes me say what ought to be said first by you."
"Never mind -- say it."
"O, must I? -- it is, when shall we be married, Frank?"
"Oh, I see. Well -- you have to get proper clothes."
"I have money. Will it be by banns or license?"
"Banns, I should think."
"And we live in two parishes."
"Do we? What then?"
"My lodgings are in St. Mary's, and this is not. So they
will have to be published in both."
"Is that the law?"
"Yes. O Frank -- you think me forward, I am afraid! Don't,
dear Frank -- will you -- for I love you so. And you said
lots of times you would marry me, and and -- I -- I -- I ---
"Don't cry, now! It is foolish. If I said so, of course I
"And shall I put up the banns in my parish, and will you in
"Not tomorrow. We'll settle in a few days."
"You have the permission of the officers?"
"No, not yet."
"O -- how is it? You said you almost had before you left
"The fact is, I forgot to ask. Your coming like this is so
sudden and unexpected."
"Yes -- yes -- it is. It was wrong of me to worry you.
I'll go away now. Will you come and see me to-morrow, at
Mrs. Twills's, in North Street? I don't like to come to the
Barracks. There are bad women about, and they think me
"Quite, so. I'll come to you, my dear. Good-night."
"Good-night, Frank -- good-night!"
And the noise was again heard of a window closing. The
little spot moved away. When she passed the corner a
subdued exclamation was heard inside the wall.
"Ho -- ho -- Sergeant -- ho -- ho!" An expostulation
followed, but it was indistinct; and it became lost amid a
low peal of laughter, which was hardly distinguishable from
the gurgle of the tiny whirlpools outside.
FARMERS -- A RULE -- IN EXCEPTION
THE first public evidence of Bathsheba's decision to be a
farmer in her own person and by proxy no more was her
appearance the following market-day in the cornmarket at
The low though extensive hall, supported by beams and
pillars, and latterly dignified by the name of Corn
Exchange, was thronged with hot men who talked among each
other in twos and threes, the speaker of the minute looking
sideways into his auditor's face and concentrating his
argument by a contraction of one eyelid during delivery.
The greater number carried in their hands ground-ash
saplings, using them partly as walking-sticks and partly for
poking up pigs, sheep, neighbours with their backs turned,
and restful things in general, which seemed to require such
treatment in the course of their peregrinations. During
conversations each subjected his sapling to great varieties
of usage -- bending it round his back, forming an arch of it
between his two hands, overweighting it on the ground till
it reached nearly a semicircle; or perhaps it was hastily
tucked under the arm whilst the sample-bag was pulled forth
and a handful of corn poured into the palm, which, after
criticism, was flung upon the floor, an issue of events
perfectly well known to half-a-dozen acute town-bred fowls
which had as usual crept into the building unobserved, and
waited the fulfilment of their anticipations with a high-
stretched neck and oblique eye.
Among these heavy yeomen a feminine figure glided, the
single one of her sex that the room contained. She was
prettily and even daintily dressed. She moved between them
as a chaise between carts, was heard after them as a romance
after sermons, was felt among them like a breeze among
furnaces. It had required a little determination -- far
more than she had at first imagined -- to take up a position
here, for at her first entry the lumbering dialogues had
ceased, nearly every face had been turned towards her, and
those that were already turned rigidly fixed there.
Two or three only of the farmers were personally known to
Bathsheba, and to these she had made her way. But if she
was to be the practical woman she had intended to show
herself, business must be carried on, introductions or none,
and she ultimately acquired confidence enough to speak and
reply boldly to men merely known to her by hearsay.
Bathsheba too had her sample-bags, and by degrees adopted
the professional pour into the hand -- holding up the grains
in her narrow palm for inspection, in perfect Casterbridge
Something in the exact arch of her upper unbroken row of
teeth, and in the keenly pointed corners of her red mouth
when, with parted lips, she somewhat defiantly turned up her
face to argue a point with a tall man, suggested that there
was potentiality enough in that lithe slip of humanity for
alarming exploits of sex, and daring enough to carry them
out. But her eyes had a softness -- invariably a softness --
which, had they not been dark, would have seemed
mistiness; as they were, it lowered an expression that might
have been piercing to simple clearness.
Strange to say of a woman in full bloom and vigor, she
always allowed her interlocutors to finish their statements
before rejoining with hers. In arguing on prices, she held
to her own firmly, as was natural in a dealer, and reduced
theirs persistently, as was inevitable in a woman. But
there was an elasticity in her firmness which removed it
from obstinacy, as there was a naivete in her cheapening
which saved it from meanness.
Those of the farmers with whom she had no dealings by far
the greater part) were continually asking each other, "Who
is she?" The reply would be --
"Farmer Everdene's niece; took on Weatherbury Upper Farm;
turned away the baily, and swears she'll do everything
The other man would then shake his head.
"Yes, 'tis a pity she's so headstrong," the first would say.
"But we ought to be proud of her here -- she lightens up the
old place. 'Tis such a shapely maid, however, that she'll
soon get picked up."
It would be ungallant to suggest that the novelty of her
engagement in such an occupation had almost as much to do
with the magnetism as had the beauty of her face and
movements. However, the interest was general, and this
Saturday's DEBUT in the forum, whatever it may have been to
Bathsheba as the buying and selling farmer, was
unquestionably a triumph to her as the maiden. Indeed, the
sensation was so pronounced that her instinct on two or
three occasions was merely to walk as a queen among these
gods of the fallow, like a little sister of a little Jove,
and to neglect closing prices altogether.
The numerous evidences of her power to attract were only
thrown into greater relief by a marked exception. Women
seem to have eyes in their ribbons for such matters as
these. Bathsheba, without looking within a right angle of
him, was conscious of a black sheep among the flock.
It perplexed her first. If there had been a respectable
minority on either side, the case would have been most
natural. If nobody had regarded her, she would have --
taken the matter indifferently -- such cases had occurred.
If everybody, this man included, she would have taken it as
a matter of course -- people had done so before. But the
smallness of the exception made the mystery.
She soon knew thus much of the recusant's appearance. He
was a gentlemanly man, with full and distinctly outlined
Roman features, the prominences of which glowed in the sun
with a bronze-like richness of tone. He was erect in
attitude, and quiet in demeanour. One characteristic pre-
eminently marked him -- dignity.
Apparently he had some time ago reached that entrance to
middle age at which a man's aspect naturally ceases to alter
for the term of a dozen years or so; and, artificially, a
woman's does likewise. Thirty-five and fifty were his
limits of variation -- he might have been either, or
anywhere between the two.
It may be said that married men of forty are usually ready
and generous enough to fling passing glances at any specimen
of moderate beauty they may discern by the way. Probably,
as with persons playing whist for love, the consciousness of
a certain immunity under any circumstances from that worst
possible ultimate, the having to pay, makes them unduly
speculative. Bathsheba was convinced that this unmoved
person was not a married man.
When marketing was over, she rushed off to Liddy, who was
waiting for her -- beside the yellowing in which they had
driven to town. The horse was put in, and on they trotted
Bathsheba's sugar, tea, and drapery parcels being packed
behind, and expressing in some indescribable manner, by
their colour, shape, and general lineaments, that they were
that young lady-farmer's property, and the grocer's and
drapers no more.
"I've been through it, Liddy, and it is over. I shan't mind
it again, for they will all have grown accustomed to seeing
me there; but this morning it was as bad as being married --
"I knowed it would be," Liddy said. "Men be such a terrible
class of society to look at a body."
"But there was one man who had more sense than to waste his
time upon me." The information was put in this form that
Liddy might not for a moment suppose her mistress was at all
piqued. "A very good-looking man," she continued, "upright;
about forty, I should think. Do you know at all who he
Liddy couldn't think.
"Can't you guess at all?" said Bathsheba with some
"I haven't a notion; besides, 'tis no difference, since he
took less notice of you than any of the rest. Now, if he'd
taken more, it would have mattered a great deal."
Bathsheba was suffering from the reverse feeling just then,
and they bowled along in silence. A low carriage, bowling
along still more rapidly behind a horse of unimpeachable
breed, overtook and passed them.
"Why, there he is!" she said.
Liddy looked. "That! That's Farmer Boldwood -- of course
'tis -- the man you couldn't see the other day when he
"Oh, Farmer Boldwood," murmured Bathsheba, and looked at him
as he outstripped them. The farmer had never turned his
head once, but with eyes fixed on the most advanced point
along the road, passed as unconsciously and abstractedly as
if Bathsheba and her charms were thin air.
"He's an interesting man -- don't you think so?" she
"O yes, very. Everybody owns it," replied Liddy.
"I wonder why he is so wrapt up and indifferent, and
seemingly so far away from all he sees around him."
"It is said -- but not known for certain -- that he met with
some bitter disappointment when he was a young man and
merry. A woman jilted him, they say."
"People always say that -- and we know very well women
scarcely ever jilt men; 'tis the men who jilt us. I expect
it is simply his nature to be so reserved."
"Simply his nature -- I expect so, miss -- nothing else in
"Still, 'tis more romantic to think he has been served
cruelly, poor thing'! Perhaps, after all, he has!"
"Depend upon it he has. Oh yes, miss, he has! I feel he
"However, we are very apt to think extremes of people. I --
shouldn't wonder after all if it wasn't a little of both --
just between the two -- rather cruelly used and rather
"Oh dear no, miss -- I can't think it between the two!"
"That's most likely."
"Well, yes, so it is. I am convinced it is most likely.
You may -- take my word, miss, that that's what's the matter
SORTES SANCTORUM -- THE VALENTINE
IT was Sunday afternoon in the farmhouse, on the thirteenth
of February. Dinner being over, Bathsheba, for want of a
better companion, had asked Liddy to come and sit with her.
The mouldy pile was dreary in winter-time before the candles
were lighted and the shutters closed; the atmosphere of the
place seemed as old as the walls; every nook behind the
furniture had a temperature of its own, for the fire was not
kindled in this part of the house early in the day; and
Bathsheba's new piano, which was an old one in other annals,
looked particularly sloping and out of level on the warped
floor before night threw a shade over its less prominent
angles and hid the unpleasantness. Liddy, like a little
brook, though shallow, was always rippling; her presence had
not so much weight as to task thought, and yet enough to
On the table lay an old quarto Bible, bound in leather.
Liddy looking at it said, --
"Did you ever find out, miss, who you are going to marry by
means of the Bible and key?"
"Don't be so foolish, Liddy. As if such things could be."
"Well, there's a good deal in it, all the same."
"And it makes your heart beat fearful. Some believe in it;
some don't; I do."
"Very well, let's try it," said Bathsheba, bounding from her
seat with that total disregard of consistency which can be
indulged in towards a dependent, and entering into the
spirit of divination at once. "Go and get the front door
Liddy fetched it. "I wish it wasn't Sunday," she said, on
returning." Perhaps 'tis wrong."
"What's right week days is right Sundays," replied her
mistress in a tone which was a proof in itself.
The book was opened -- the leaves, drab with age, being
quite worn away at much-read verses by the forefingers of
unpractised readers in former days, where they were moved
along under the line as an aid to the vision. The special
verse in the Book of Ruth was sought out by Bathsheba, and
the sublime words met her eye. They slightly thrilled and
abashed her. It was Wisdom in the abstract facing Folly in
the concrete. Folly in the concrete blushed, persisted in
her intention, and placed the key on the book. A rusty
patch immediately upon the verse, caused by previous
pressure of an iron substance thereon, told that this was
not the first time the old volume had been used for the
"Now keep steady, and be silent," said Bathsheba.
The verse was repeated; the book turned round; Bathsheba
"Who did you try?" said Liddy curiously.
"I shall not tell you."
"Did you notice Mr. Boldwood's doings in church this
morning, miss?" Liddy continued, adumbrating by the remark
the track her thoughts had taken.
"No, indeed," said Bathsheba, with serene indifference.
"His pew is exactly opposite yours, miss."
"I know it."
"And you did not see his goings on!"
"Certainly I did not, I tell you."
Liddy assumed a smaller physiognomy, and shut her lips
This move was unexpected, and proportionately disconcerting.
"What did he do?" Bathsheba said perforce.
"Didn't turn his head to look at you once all the service.
"Why should he?" again demanded her mistress, wearing a
nettled look. "I didn't ask him to.
"Oh no. But everybody else was noticing you; and it was odd
he didn't. There, 'tis like him. Rich and gentlemanly,
what does he care?"
Bathsheba dropped into a silence intended to express that
she had opinions on the matter too abstruse for Liddy's
comprehension, rather than that she had nothing to say.
"Dear me -- I had nearly forgotten the valentine I bought
yesterday," she exclaimed at length.
"Valentine! who for, miss?" said Liddy. "Farmer Boldwood?"
It was the single name among all possible wrong ones that
just at this moment seemed to Bathsheba more pertinent than
"Well, no. It is only for little Teddy Coggan. I have
promised him something, and this will be a pretty surprise
for him. Liddy, you may as well bring me my desk and I'll
direct it at once."
Bathsheba took from her desk a gorgeously illuminated and
embossed design in post-octavo, which had been bought on the
previous market-day at the chief stationer's in
Casterbridge. In the centre was a small oval enclosure;
this was left blank, that the sender might insert tender
words more appropriate to the special occasion than any
generalities by a printer could possibly be.
"Here's a place for writing," said Bathsheba. "What shall I
"Something of this sort, I should think', returned Liddy
"The rose is red,
The violet blue,
And so are you."
"Yes, that shall be it. It just suits itself to a chubby-
faced child like him," said Bathsheba. She inserted the
words in a small though legible handwriting; enclosed the
sheet in an envelope, and dipped her pen for the direction.
"What fun it would be to send it to the stupid old Boldwood,
and how he would wonder!" said the irrepressible Liddy,
lifting her eyebrows, and indulging in an awful mirth on the
verge of fear as she thought of the moral and social
magnitude of the man contemplated.
Bathsheba paused to regard the idea at full length.
Boldwood's had begun to be a troublesome image -- a species
of Daniel in her kingdom who persisted in kneeling eastward
when reason and common sense said that he might just as well
follow suit with the rest, and afford her the official
glance of admiration which cost nothing at all. She was far
from being seriously concerned about his nonconformity.
Still, it was faintly depressing that the most dignified and
valuable man in the parish should withhold his eyes, and
that a girl like Liddy should talk about it. So Liddy's
idea was at first rather harassing than piquant.
"No, I won't do that. He wouldn't see any humour in it."
"He'd worry to death," said the persistent Liddy.
"Really, I don't care particularly to send it to Teddy,"
remarked her mistress. "He's rather a naughty child
"Yes -- that he is."
"Let's toss as men do," said Bathsheba, idly. "Now then,
head, Boldwood; tail, Teddy. No, we won't toss money on a
Sunday that would be tempting the devil indeed."
"Toss this hymn-book; there can't be no sinfulness in that,
"Very well. Open, Boldwood -- shut, Teddy. No; it's more
likely to fall open. Open, Teddy -- shut, Boldwood."
The book went fluttering in the air and came down shut.
Bathsheba, a small yawn upon her mouth, took the pen, and
with off-hand serenity directed the missive to Boldwood.
"Now light a candle, Liddy. Which seal shall we use?
Here's a unicorn's head -- there's nothing in that. What's
this? -- two doves -- no. It ought to be something
extraordinary, ought it not, Liddy? Here's one with a motto
-- I remember it is some funny one, but I can't read it.
We'll try this, and if it doesn't do we'll have another."
A large red seal was duly affixed. Bathsheba looked closely
at the hot wax to discover the words.
"Capital!" she exclaimed, throwing down the letter
frolicsomely. "'Twould upset the solemnity of a parson and
Liddy looked at the words of the seal, and read --
The same evening the letter was sent, and was duly sorted in
Casterbridge post-office that night, to be returned to
Weatherbury again in the morning.
So very idly and unreflectingly was this deed done. Of love
as a spectacle Bathsheba had a fair knowledge; but of love
subjectively she knew nothing.
EFFECT OF THE LETTER -- SUNRISE
AT dusk, on the evening of St. Valentine's Day, Bold-wood
sat down to supper as usual, by a beaming fire of aged logs.
Upon the mantel-shelf before him was a time-piece,
surmounted by a spread eagle, and upon the eagle's wings was
the letter Bathsheba had sent. Here the bachelor's gaze was
continually fastening itself, till the large red seal became
as a blot of blood on the retina of his eye; and as he ate
and drank he still read in fancy the words thereon, although
they were too remote for his sight --
The pert injunction was like those crystal substances which,
colourless themselves, assume the tone of objects about
them. Here, in the quiet of Boldwood's parlour, where
everything that was not grave was extraneous, and where the
atmosphere was that of a Puritan Sunday lasting all the
week, the letter and its dictum changed their tenor from the
thoughtlessness of their origin to a deep solemnity, imbibed
from their accessories now.
Since the receipt of the missive in the morning, Boldwood
had felt the symmetry of his existence to be slowly getting
distorted in the direction of an ideal passion. The
disturbance was as the first floating weed to Columbus --
the contemptibly little suggesting possibilities of the
The letter must have had an origin and a motive. That the
latter was of the smallest magnitude compatible with its
existence at all, Boldwood, of course, did not know. And
such an explanation did not strike him as a possibility
even. It is foreign to a mystified condition of mind to
realize of the mystifier that the processes of approving a
course suggested by circumstance, and of striking out a
course from inner impulse, would look the same in the
result. The vast difference between starting a train of
events, and directing into a particular groove a series
already started, is rarely apparent to the person confounded
by the issue.
When Boldwood went to bed he placed the valentine in the
corner of the looking-glass. He was conscious of its
presence, even when his back was turned upon it. It was the
first time in Boldwood's life that such an event had
occurred. The same fascination that caused him to think it
an act which had a deliberate motive prevented him from
regarding it as an impertinence. He looked again at the
direction. The mysterious influences of night invested the
writing with the presence of the unknown writer. Somebody's
some WOMAN'S -- hand had travelled softly over the paper
bearing his name; her unrevealed eyes had watched every
curve as she formed it; her brain had seen him in
imagination the while. Why should she have imagined him?
Her mouth -- were the lips red or pale, plump or creased? --
had curved itself to a certain expression as the pen went on
-- the corners had moved with all their natural
tremulousness: what had been the expression?
The vision of the woman writing, as a supplement to the
words written, had no individuality. She was a misty shape,
and well she might be, considering that her original was at
that moment sound asleep and oblivious of all love and
letter-writing under the sky. Whenever Boldwood dozed she
took a form, and comparatively ceased to be a vision: when
he awoke there was the letter justifying the dream.
The moon shone to-night, and its light was not of a
customary kind. His window admitted only a reflection of
its rays, and the pale sheen had that reversed direction
which snow gives, coming upward and lighting up his ceiling
in an unnatural way, casting shadows in strange places, and
putting lights where shadows had used to be.
The substance of the epistle had occupied him but little in
comparison with the fact of its arrival. He suddenly
wondered if anything more might be found in the envelope
than what he had withdrawn. He jumped out of bed in the
weird light, took the letter, pulled out the flimsy sheet,
shook the envelope -- searched it. Nothing more was there.
Boldwood looked, as he had a hundred times the preceding
day, at the insistent red seal: "Marry me," he said aloud.
The solemn and reserved yeoman again closed the letter, and
stuck it in the frame of the glass. In doing so he caught
sight of his reflected features, wan in expression, and
insubstantial in form. He saw how closely compressed was
his mouth, and that his eyes were wide-spread and vacant.
Feeling uneasy and dissatisfied with himself for this
nervous excitability, he returned to bed.
Then the dawn drew on. The full power of the clear heaven
was not equal to that of a cloudy sky at noon, when Boldwood
arose and dressed himself. He descended the stairs and went
out towards the gate of a field to the east, leaning over
which he paused and looked around.
It was one of the usual slow sunrises of this time of the
year, and the sky, pure violet in the zenith, was leaden to
the northward, and murky to the east, where, over the snowy
down or ewe-lease on Weatherbury Upper Farm, and apparently
resting upon the ridge, the only half of the sun yet visible
burnt rayless, like a red and flameless fire shining over a
white hearthstone. The whole effect resembled a sunset as
childhood resembles age.
In other directions, the fields and sky were so much of one
colour by the snow, that it was difficult in a hasty glance
to tell whereabouts the horizon occurred; and in general
there was here, too, that before-mentioned preternatural
inversion of light and shade which attends the prospect when
the garish brightness commonly in the sky is found on the
earth, and the shades of earth are in the sky. Over the
west hung the wasting moon, now dull and greenish-yellow,
like tarnished brass.
Boldwood was listlessly noting how the frost had hardened
and glazed the surface of the snow, till it shone in the red
eastern light with the polish of marble; how, in some
portions of the slope, withered grass-bents, encased in
icicles, bristled through the smooth wan coverlet in the
twisted and curved shapes of old Venetian glass; and how the
footprints of a few birds, which had hopped over the snow
whilst it lay in the state of a soft fleece, were now frozen
to a short permanency. A half-muffled noise of light wheels
interrupted him. Boldwood turned back into the road. It
was the mail-cart -- a crazy, two-wheeled vehicle, hardly
heavy enough to resist a puff of wind. The driver held out
a letter. Boldwood seized it and opened it, expecting
another anonymous one -- so greatly are people's ideas of
probability a mere sense that precedent will repeat itself.
"I don't think it is for you, sir," said the man, when he
saw Boldwood's action. "Though there is no name I think it
is for your shepherd."
Boldwood looked then at the address --
To the New Shepherd,
"Oh -- what a mistake! -- it is not mine. Nor is it for my
shepherd. It is for Miss Everdene's. "You had better take
it on to him -- Gabriel Oak -- and say I opened it in
At this moment, on the ridge, up against the blazing sky, a
figure was visible, like the black snuff in the midst of a
candle-flame. Then it moved and began to bustle about
vigorously from place to place, carrying square skeleton
masses, which were riddled by the same rays. A small figure
on all fours followed behind. The tall form was that of
Gabriel Oak; the small one that of George; the articles in
course of transit were hurdles.
"Wait," said Boldwood. "That's the man on the hill. I'll
take the letter to him myself."
To Boldwood it was now no longer merely a letter to I
another man. It was an opportunity. Exhibiting a face
pregnant with intention, he entered the snowy field.
Gabriel, at that minute, descended the hill towards the
right. The glow stretched down in this direction now, and
touched the distant roof of Warren's Malthouse -- whither
the shepherd was apparently bent: Boldwood followed at a
A MORNING MEETING -- THE LETTER AGAIN
THE scarlet and orange light outside the malthouse did not
penetrate to its interior, which was, as usual, lighted by a
rival glow of similar hue, radiating from the hearth.
The maltster, after having lain down in his clothes for a
few hours, was now sitting beside a three-legged table,
breakfasting of bread and bacon. This was eaten on the
plateless system, which is performed by placing a slice of
bread upon the table, the meat flat upon the bread, a
mustard plaster upon the meat, and a pinch of salt upon the
whole, then cutting them vertically downwards with a large
pocket-knife till wood is reached, when the severed lamp is
impaled on the knife, elevated, and sent the proper way of
The maltster's lack of teeth appeared not to sensibly
diminish his powers as a mill. He had been without them for
so many years that toothlessness was felt less to be a
defect than hard gums an acquisition. Indeed, he seemed to
approach the grave as a hyperbolic curve approaches a
straight line -- less directly as he got nearer, till it was
doubtful if he would ever reach it at all.
In the ashpit was a heap of potatoes roasting, and a boiling
pipkin of charred bread, called "coffee." for the benefit of
whomsoever should call, for Warren's was a sort of
clubhouse, used as an alternative to the inn.
"I say, says I, we get a fine day, and then down comes a
snapper at night," was a remark now suddenly heard spreading
into the malthouse from the door, which had been opened the
previous moment. The form of Henery Fray advanced to the
fire, stamping the snow from his boots when about half-way
there. The speech and entry had not seemed to be at all an
abrupt beginning to the maltster, introductory matter being
often omitted in this neighbourhood, both from word and
deed, and the maltster having the same latitude allowed him,
did not hurry to reply. He picked up a fragment of cheese,
by pecking upon it with his knife, as a butcher picks up
Henery appeared in a drab kerseymere great-coat, buttoned
over his smock-frock, the white skirts of the latter being
visible to the distance of about a foot below the coat-
tails, which, when you got used to the style of dress,
looked natural enough, and even ornamental -- it certainly
Matthew Moon, Joseph Poorgrass, and other carters and
waggoners followed at his heels, with great lanterns
dangling from their hands, which showed that they had just
come from the cart-horse stables, where they had been busily
engaged since four o'clock that morning.
"And how is she getting on without a baily?" the maltster
inquired. Henery shook his head, and smiled one of the
bitter smiles, dragging all the flesh of his forehead into a
corrugated heap in the centre.
"She'll rue it -- surely, surely!" he said "Benjy Pennyways
were not a true man or an honest baily -- as big a betrayer
as Judas Iscariot himself. But to think she can carr' on
alone!" He allowed his head to swing laterally three or four
times in silence. "Never in all my creeping up -- never!"
This was recognized by all as the conclusion of some gloomy
speech which had been expressed in thought alone during the
shake of the head; Henery meanwhile retained several marks
of despair upon his face, to imply that they would be
required for use again directly he should go on speaking.
"All will be ruined, and ourselves too, or there's no meat
in gentlemen's houses!" said Mark Clark.
"A headstrong maid, that's what she is -- and won't listen
to no advice at all. Pride and vanity have ruined many a
cobbler's dog. Dear, dear, when I think o' it, I sorrows
like a man in travel!"
"True, Henery, you do, I've heard ye," said Joseph Poorgrass
in a voice of thorough attestation, and with a wire-drawn
smile of misery.
"'Twould do a martel man no harm to have what's under her
bonnet," said Billy Smallbury, who had just entered, bearing
his one tooth before him. "She can spaik real language, and
must have some sense somewhere. Do ye foller me?"
"I do, I do; but no baily -- I deserved that place," wailed
Henery, signifying wasted genius by gazing blankly at
visions of a high destiny apparently visible to him on Billy
Smallbury's smock-frock. "There, 'twas to be, I suppose.
Your lot is your lot, and Scripture is nothing; for if you
do good you don't get rewarded according to your works, but
be cheated in some mean way out of your recompense."
"No, no; I don't agree with'ee there," said Mark Clark.
God's a perfect gentleman in that respect."
"Good works good pay, so to speak it," attested Joseph
A short pause ensued, and as a sort of ENTR'ACTE Henery
turned and blew out the lanterns, which the increase of
daylight rendered no longer necessary even in the malthouse,
with its one pane of glass.
"I wonder what a farmer-woman can want with a harpsichord,
dulcimer, pianner, or whatever 'tis they d'call it?" said
the maltster. "Liddy saith she've a new one."
"Got a pianner?"
"Ay. Seems her old uncle's things were not good enough for
her. She've bought all but everything new. There's heavy
chairs for the stout, weak and wiry ones for the slender;
great watches, getting on to the size of clocks, to stand
upon the chimbley-piece."
Pictures, for the most part wonderful frames."
"And long horse-hair settles for the drunk, with horse-hair
pillows at each end," said Mr. Clark. "Likewise looking-
glasses for the pretty, and lying books for the wicked."
A firm loud tread was now heard stamping outside; the door
was opened about six inches, and somebody on the other side
"Neighbours, have ye got room for a few new-born lambs?"
Ay, sure, shepherd," said the conclave.
The door was flung back till it kicked the wall and trembled
from top to bottom with the blow. Mr. Oak appeared in the
entry with a steaming face, hay-bands wound about his ankles
to keep out the snow, a leather strap round his waist
outside the smock-frock, and looking altogether an epitome
of the world's health and vigour. Four lambs hung in
various embarrassing attitudes over his shoulders, and the
dog George, whom Gabriel had contrived to fetch from
Norcombe, stalked solemnly behind.
"Well, Shepherd Oak, and how's lambing this year, if I mid
say it?" inquired Joseph Poorgrass.
"Terrible trying," said Oak. "I've been wet through twice
a-day, either in snow or rain, this last fortnight. Cainy
and I haven't tined our eyes to-night."
"A good few twins, too, I hear?"
"Too many by half. Yes; 'tis a very queer lambing this
year. We shan't have done by Lady Day."
"And last year 'twer all over by Sexajessamine Sunday,"
"Bring on the rest Cain," said Gabriel, " and then run back
to the ewes. I'll follow you soon."
Cainy Ball -- a cheery-faced young lad, with a small
circular orifice by way of mouth, advanced and deposited two
others, and retired as he was bidden. Oak lowered the lambs
from their unnatural elevation, wrapped them in hay, and
placed them round the fire.
"We've no lambing-hut here, as I used to have at Norcombe,"
said Gabriel, " and 'tis such a plague to bring the weakly
ones to a house. If 'twasn't for your place here, malter, I
don't know what I should do! this keen weather. And how is
it with you to-day, malter?"
"Oh, neither sick nor sorry, shepherd; but no younger."
"Ay -- I understand."
"Sit down, Shepherd Oak," continued the ancient man of malt.
"And how was the old place at Norcombe, when ye went for
your dog? I should like to see the old familiar spot; but
faith, I shouldn't know a soul there now."
"I suppose you wouldn't. 'Tis altered very much."
"Is it true that Dicky Hill's wooden cider-house is pulled
"Oh yes -- years ago, and Dicky's cottage just above it."
"Well, to be sure!"
"Yes; and Tompkins's old apple-tree is rooted that used to
bear two hogsheads of cider; and no help from other trees."
"Rooted? -- you don't say it! Ah! stirring times we live in
-- stirring times."
"And you can mind the old well that used to be in the middle
of the place? That's turned into a solid iron pump with a
large stone trough, and all complete."
"Dear, dear -- how the face of nations alter, and what we
live to see nowadays! Yes -- and 'tis the same here.
They've been talking but now of the mis'ess's strange
"What have you been saying about her?" inquired Oak, sharply
turning to the rest, and getting very warm.
"These middle-aged men have been pulling her over the coals
for pride and vanity," said Mark Clark; "but I say, let her
have rope enough. Bless her pretty face shouldn't I like to
do so -- upon her cherry lips!" The gallant Mark Clark here
made a peculiar and well known sound with his own.
"Mark," said Gabriel, sternly, "now you mind this! none of
that dalliance-talk -- that smack-and-coddle style of yours
-- about Miss Everdene. I don't allow it. Do you hear?"
"With all my heart, as I've got no chance," replied Mr.
"I suppose you've been speaking against her?" said Oak,
turning to Joseph Poorgrass with a very grim look.
"No, no -- not a word I -- 'tis a real joyful thing that
she's no worse, that's what I say," said Joseph, trembling
and blushing with terror. "Matthew just said ----"
"Matthew Moon, what have you been saying?" asked Oak.
"I? Why ye know I wouldn't harm a worm -- no, not one
underground worm?" said Matthew Moon, looking very uneasy.
"Well, somebody has -- and look here, neighbours," Gabriel,
though one of the quietest and most gentle men on earth,
rose to the occasion, with martial promptness and vigour.
"That's my fist." Here he placed his fist, rather smaller in
size than a common loaf, in the mathematical centre of the
maltster's little table, and with it gave a bump or two
thereon, as if to ensure that their eyes all thoroughly took
in the idea of fistiness before he went further. "Now --
the first man in the parish that I hear prophesying bad of
our mistress, why" (here the fist was raised and let fall as
Thor might have done with his hammer in assaying it) --
"he'll smell and taste that -- or I'm a Dutchman."
All earnestly expressed by their features that their minds
did not wander to Holland for a moment on account of this
statement, but were deploring the difference which gave rise
to the figure; and Mark Clark cried "Hear, hear; just what I
should ha' said." The dog George looked up at the same time
after the shepherd's menace, and though he understood
English but imperfectly, began to growl.
"Now, don't ye take on so, shepherd, and sit down!" said
Henery, with a deprecating peacefulness equal to anything of
the kind in Christianity.
"We hear that ye be a extraordinary good and clever man,
shepherd," said Joseph Poorgrass with considerable anxiety
from behind the maltster's bedstead whither he had retired
for safety. "'Tis a great thing to be clever, I'm sure," he
added, making movements associated with states of mind
rather than body; "we wish we were, don't we, neighbours?"
"Ay, that we do, sure," said Matthew Moon, with a small
anxious laugh towards Oak, to show how very friendly
disposed he was likewise.
"Who's been telling you I'm clever?" said Oak.
"'Tis blowed about from pillar to post quite common," said
Matthew. "We hear that ye can tell the time as well by the
stars as we can by the sun and moon, shepherd."
"Yes, I can do a little that way," said Gabriel, as a man of
medium sentiments on the subject.
And that ye can make sun-dials and prent folks' names upon
their waggons almost like copper-plate, with beautiful
flourishes, and great long tails. A excellent fine thing
for ye to be such a clever man, shepherd. Joseph Poorgrass
used to prent to Farmer James Everdene's waggons before you
came, and 'a could never mind which way to turn the J's and
E's -- could ye, Joseph?" Joseph shook his head to express
how absolute was the fact that he couldn't. "And so you
used to do 'em the wrong way, like this, didn't ye, Joseph?"
Matthew marked on the dusty floor with his whip-handle.
[the word J A M E S appears here with the "J" and "E"
printed as mirror images]
"And how Farmer James would cuss, and call thee a fool,
wouldn't he, Joseph, when 'a seed his name looking so
inside-out-like?" continued Matthew Moon with feeling.
"Ay -- 'a would," said Joseph, meekly. "But, you see, I
wasn't so much to blame, for them J's and E's be such trying
sons o' witches for the memory to mind whether they face
backward or forward; and I always had such a forgetful
"'Tis a very bad afiction for ye, being such a man of
calamities in other ways."
"Well, 'tis; but a happy Providence ordered that it should
be no worse, and I feel my thanks. As to shepherd, there,
I'm sure mis'ess ought to have made ye her baily -- such a
fitting man for't as you be."
"I don't mind owning that I expected it," said Oak, frankly.
"Indeed, I hoped for the place. At the same time, Miss
Everdene has a right to be her own baily if she choose --
and to keep me down to be a common shepherd only." Oak drew
a slow breath, looked sadly into the bright ashpit, and
seemed lost in thoughts not of the most hopeful hue.
The genial warmth of the fire now began to stimulate the
nearly lifeless lambs to bleat and move their limbs briskly
upon the hay, and to recognize for the first time the fact
that they were born. Their noise increased to a chorus of
baas, upon which Oak pulled the milk-can from before the
fire, and taking a small tea-pot from the pocket of his
smock-frock, filled it with milk, and taught those of the
helpless creatures which were not to be restored to their
dams how to drink from the spout -- a trick they acquired
with astonishing aptitude.
"And she don't even let ye have the skins of the dead lambs,
I hear?" resumed Joseph Poorgrass, his eyes lingering on the
operations of Oak with the necessary melancholy.
"I don't have them," said Gabriel.
"Ye be very badly used, shepherd," hazarded Joseph again, in
the hope of getting Oak as an ally in lamentation after all.
"I think she's took against ye -- that I do."
"Oh no -- not at all," replied Gabriel, hastily, and a sigh
escaped him, which the deprivation of lamb skins could
hardly have caused.
Before any further remark had been added a shade darkened
the door, and Boldwood entered the malthouse, bestowing upon
each a nod of a quality between friendliness and
"Ah! Oak, I thought you were here," he said. "I met the
mail-cart ten minutes ago, and a letter was put into my
hand, which I opened without reading the address. I believe
it is yours. You must excuse the accident please."
"Oh yes -- not a bit of difference, Mr. Boldwood -- not a
bit," said Gabriel, readily. He had not a correspondent on
earth, nor was there a possible letter coming to him whose
contents the whole parish would not have been welcome to
Oak stepped aside, and read the following in an unknown
"DEAR FRIEND, -- I do not know your name, but l think these
few lines will reach you, which I wrote to thank you for
your kindness to me the night I left Weatherbury in a
reckless way. I also return the money I owe you, which you
will excuse my not keeping as a gift. All has ended well,
and I am happy to say I am going to be married to the young
man who has courted me for some time -- Sergeant Troy, of
the 11th Dragoon Guards, now quartered in this town. He
would, I know, object to my having received anything except
as a loan, being a man of great respectability and high
honour -- indeed, a nobleman by blood.
"I should be much obliged to you if you would keep the
contents of this letter a secret for the present, dear
friend. We mean to surprise Weatherbury by coming there
soon as husband and wife, though l blush to state it to one
nearly a stranger. The sergeant grew up in Weatherbury.
Thanking you again for your kindness,
I am, your sincere well-wisher,
"Have you read it, Mr. Boldwood?" said Gabriel; "if not, you
had better do so. I know you are interested in Fanny
Boldwood read the letter and looked grieved.
"Fanny -- poor Fanny! the end she is so confident of has not
yet come, she should remember -- and may never come. I see
she gives no address."
"What sort of a man is this Sergeant Troy?" said Gabriel.
"H'm -- I'm afraid not one to build much hope upon in such a
case as this," the farmer murmured, "though he's a clever
fellow, and up to everything. A slight romance attaches to
him, too. His mother was a French governess, and it seems
that a secret attachment existed between her and the late
Lord Severn. She was married to a poor medical man, and
soon after an infant was horn; and while money was
forthcoming all went on well. Unfortunately for her boy,
his best friends died; and he got then a situation as second
clerk at a lawyer's in Casterbridge. He stayed there for
some time, and might have worked himself into a dignified
position of some sort had he not indulged in the wild freak
of enlisting. I have much doubt if ever little Fanny will
surprise us in the way she mentions -- very much doubt. A
silly girl! -- silly girl!"
The door was hurriedly burst open again, and in came running
Cainy Ball out of breath, his mouth red and open, like the
bell of a penny trumpet, from which he coughed with noisy
vigour and great distension of face.
"Now, Cain Ball," said Oak, sternly, "why will you run so
fast and lose your breath so? I'm always telling you of it."
"Oh -- I -- a puff of mee breath -- went -- the -- wrong
way, please, Mister Oak, and made me cough -- hok -- hok!"
"Well -- what have you come for?"
"I've run to tell ye," said the junior shepherd, supporting
his exhausted youthful frame against the doorpost, "that you
must come directly. Two more ewes have twinned -- that's
what's the matter, Shepherd Oak."
"Oh, that's it," said Oak, jumping up, and dimissing for the
present his thoughts on poor Fanny. "You are a good boy to
run and tell me, Cain, and you shall smell a large plum
pudding some day as a treat. But, before we go, Cainy,
bring the tarpot, and we'll mark this lot and have done with
Oak took from his illimitable pockets a marking iron, dipped
it into the pot, and imprintcd on the buttocks of the infant
sheep the initials of her he delighted to muse on -- "B.
E.," which signified to all the region round that henceforth
the lambs belonged to Farmer Bathsheba Everdene, and to no
"Now, Cainy, shoulder your two, and off. Good morning, Mr.
Boldwood." The shepherd lifted the sixteen large legs and
four small bodies he had himself brought, and vanished with
them in the direction of the lambing field hard by -- their
frames being now in a sleek and hopeful state, pleasantly
contrasting with their death's-door plight of half an hour
Boldwood followed him a little way up the field, hesitated,
and turned back. He followed him again with a last resolve,
annihilating return. On approaching the nook in which the
fold was constructed, the farmer drew out his pocket-book,
unfastened-it, and allowed it to lie open on his hand. A
letter was revealed -- Bathsheba's.
"I was going to ask you, Oak," he said, with unreal
carelessness, "if you know whose writing this is?"
Oak glanced into the book, and replied instantly, with a
flushed face, "Miss Everdene's."
Oak had coloured simply at the consciousness of sounding her
name. He now felt a strangely distressing qualm from a new
thought. "The letter could of course be no other than
anonymous, or the inquiry would not have been necessary.
Boldwood mistook his confusion: sensitive persons are
always ready with their "Is it I?" in preference to
"The question was perfectly fair," he returned -- and there
was something incongruous in the serious earnestness with
which he applied himself to an argument on a valentine.
"You know it is always expected that privy inquiries will be
made: that's where the -- fun lies." If the word "fun" had
been "torture." it could not have been uttered with a more
constrained and restless countenance than was Boldwood's
Soon parting from Gabriel, the lonely and reserved man
returned to his house to breakfast -- feeling twinges of
shame and regret at having so far exposed his mood by those
fevered questions to a stranger. He again placed the letter
on the mantelpiece, and sat down to think of the
circumstances attending it by the light of Gabriel's
ALL SAINTS' AND ALL SOULS'
ON a week-day morning a small congregation, consisting
mainly of women and girls, rose from its knees in the mouldy
nave of a church called All Saints', in the distant barrack-
town before mentioned, at the end of a service without a
sermon. They were about to disperse, when a smart footstep,
entering the porch and coming up the central passage,
arrested their attention. The step echoed with a ring
unusual in a church; it was the clink of spurs. Everybody
looked. A young cavalry soldier in a red uniform, with the
three chevrons of a sergeant upon his sleeve, strode up the
aisle, with an embarrassment which was only the more marked
by the intense vigour of his step, and by the determination
upon his face to show none. A slight flush had mounted his
cheek by the time he had run the gauntlet between these
women; but, passing on through the chancel arch, he never
paused till he came close to the altar railing. Here for a
moment he stood alone.
The officiating curate, who had not yet doffed his surplice,
perceived the new-comer, and followed him to the communion-
space. He whispered to the soldier, and then beckoned to
the clerk, who in his turn whispered to an elderly woman,
apparently his wife, and they also went up the chancel
"'Tis a wedding!" murmured some of the women, brightening.
The majority again sat down.
There was a creaking of machinery behind, and some of the
young ones turned their heads. From the interior face of
the west wall of the tower projected a little canopy with a
quarter-jack and small bell beneath it, the automaton being
driven by the same clock machinery that struck the large
bell in the tower. Between the tower and the church was a
close screen, the door of which was kept shut during
services, hiding this grotesque clockwork from sight. At
present, however, the door was open, and the egress of the
jack, the blows on the bell, and the mannikin's retreat into
the nook again, were visible to many, and audible through-
out the church.
The jack had struck half-past eleven.
"Where's the woman?" whispered some of the spectators.
The young sergeant stood still with the abnormal rigidity of
the old pillars around. He faced the south-east, and was as
silent as he was still.
The silence grew to be a noticeable thing as the minutes
went on, and nobody else appeared, and not a soul moved.
The rattle of the quarter-jack again from its niche, its
blows for three-quarters, its fussy retreat, were almost
painfully abrupt, and caused many of the congregation to
"I wonder where the woman is!" a voice whispered again.
There began now that slight shifting of feet, that
artificial coughing among several, which betrays a nervous
suspense. At length there was a titter. But the soldier
never moved. There he stood, his face to the south-east,
upright as a column, his cap in his hand.
The clock ticked on. The women threw off their nervousness,
and titters and giggling became more frequent. Then came a
dead silence. Every one was waiting for the end. Some
persons may have noticed how extraordinarily the striking of
quarters. seems to quicken the flight of time. It was
hardly credible that the jack had not got wrong with the
minutes when the rattle began again, the puppet emerged, and
the four quarters were struck fitfully as before: One could
almost be positive that there was a malicious leer upon the
hideous creature's face, and a mischievous delight in its
twitchings. Then, followed the dull and remote resonance of
the twelve heavy strokes in the tower above. The women were
impressed, and there was no giggle this time.
The clergyman glided into the vestry, and the clerk
vanished. The sergeant had not yet turned; every woman in
the church was waiting to see his face, and he appeared to
know it. At last he did turn, and stalked resolutely down
the nave, braving them all, with a compressed lip. Two
bowed and toothless old almsmen then looked at each other
and chuckled, innocently enough; but the sound had a strange
weird effect in that place.
Opposite to the church was a paved square, around which
several overhanging wood buildings of old time cast a
picturesque shade. The young man on leaving the door went
to cross the square, when, in the middle, he met a little
woman. The expression of her face, which had been one of
intense anxiety, sank at the sight of his nearly to terror.
"Well?" he said, in a suppressed passion, fixedly looking at
"Oh, Frank -- I made a mistake! -- I thought that church
with the spire was All Saints', and I was at the door at
half-past eleven to a minute as you said. I waited till a
quarter to twelve, and found then that I was in All Souls'.
But I wasn't much frightened, for I thought it could be to-
morrow as well."
"You fool, for so fooling me! But say no more."
"Shall it be to-morrow, Frank?" she asked blankly.
"To-morrow!" and he gave vent to a hoarse laugh. "I don't
go through that experience again for some time, I warrant
"But after all," she expostulated in a trembling voice, "the
mistake was not such a terrible thing! Now, dear Frank, when
shall it be?"
"Ah, when? God knows!" he said, with a light irony, and
turning from her walked rapidly away.
IN THE MARKET-PLACE
ON Saturday Boldwood was in Casterbridge market house as
usual, when the disturber of his dreams entered and became
visible to him. Adam had awakened from his deep sleep, and
behold! there was Eve. The farmer took courage, and for the
first time really looked at her.
Material causes and emotional effects are not to be arranged
in regular equation. The result from capital employed in
the production of any movement of a mental nature is
sometimes as tremendous as the cause itself is absurdly
minute. When women are in a freakish mood, their usual
intuition, either from carelessness or inherent defect,
seemingly fails to teach them this, and hence it was that
Bathsheba was fated to be astonished today.
Boldwood looked at her -- not slily, critically, or
understandingly, but blankly at gaze, in the way a reaper
looks up at a passing train -- as something foreign to his
element, and but dimly understood. To Boldwood women had
been remote phenomena rather than necessary complements --
comets of such uncertain aspect, movement, and permanence,
that whether their orbits were as geometrical, unchangeable,
and as subject to laws as his own, or as absolutely erratic
as they superficially appeared, he had not deemed it his
duty to consider.
He saw her black hair, her correct facial curves and
profile, and the roundness of her chin and throat. He saw
then the side of her eyelids, eyes, and lashes, and the
shape of her ear. Next he noticed her figure, her skirt,
and the very soles of her shoes.
Boldwood thought her beautiful, but wondered whether he was
right in his thought, for it seemed impossible that this
romance in the flesh, if so sweet as he imagined, could have
been going on long without creating a commotion of delight
among men, and provoking more inquiry than Bathsheba had
done, even though that was not a little. To the best of his
judgement neither nature nor art could improve this perfect
one of an imperfect many. His heart began to move within
him. Boldwood, it must be remembered, though forty years of
age, had never before inspected a woman with the very centre
and force of his glance; they had struck upon all his senses
at wide angles.
Was she really beautiful? He could not assure himself that
his opinion was true even now. He furtively said to a
neighbour, "Is Miss Everdene considered handsome?"
"Oh yes; she was a good deal noticed the first time she
came, if you remember. A very handsome girl indeed."
A man is never more credulous than in receiving favourable
opinions on the beauty of a woman he is half, or quite, in
love with; a mere child's word on the point has the weight
of an R.A.'s. Boldwood was satisfied now.
And this charming woman had in effect said to him, "Marry
me." Why should she have done that strange thing?
Boldwood's blindness to the difference between approving of
what circumstances suggest, and originating what they do not
suggest, was well matched by Bathsheba's insensibility to
the possibly great issues of little beginnings.
She was at this moment coolly dealing with a dashing young
farmer, adding up accounts with him as indifferently as if
his face had been the pages of a ledger. It was evident
that such a nature as his had no attraction for a woman of
Bathsheba's taste. But Boldwood grew hot down to his hands
with an incipient jealousy; he trod for the first time the
threshold of "the injured lover's hell." His first impulse
was to go and thrust himself between them. This could be
done, but only in one way -- by asking to see a sample of
her corn. Boldwood renounced the idea. He could not make
the request; it was debasing loveliness to ask it to buy and
sell, and jarred with his conceptions of her.
All this time Bathsheba was conscious of having broken into
that dignified stronghold at last. His eyes, she knew, were
following her everywhere. This was a triumph; and had it
come naturally, such a triumph would have been the sweeter
to her for this piquing delay. But it had been brought
about by misdirected ingenuity, and she valued it only as
she valued an artificial flower or a wax fruit.
Being a woman with some good sense in reasoning on subjects
wherein her heart was not involved, Bathsheba genuinely
repented that a freak which had owed its existence as much
to Liddy as to herself, should ever have been undertaken, to
disturb the placidity of a man she respected too highly to
She that day nearly formed the intention of begging his
pardon on the very next occasion of their meeting. The
worst features of this arrangement were that, if he thought
she ridiculed him, an apology would increase the offence by
being disbelieved; and if he thought she wanted him to woo
her, it would read like additional evidence of her
BOLDWOOD IN MEDITATION -- REGRET
BOLDWOOD was tenant of what was called Little Weatherbury
Farm, and his person was the nearest approach to aristocracy
that this remoter quarter of the parish could boast of.
Genteel strangers, whose god was their town, who might
happen to be compelled to linger about this nook for a day,
heard the sound of light wheels, and prayed to see good
society, to the degree of a solitary lord, or squire at the
very least, but it was only Mr. Boldwood going out for the
day. They heard the sound of wheels yet once more, and were
re-animated to expectancy: it was only Mr. Boldwood coming
His house stood recessed from the road, and the stables,
which are to a farm what a fireplace is to a room, were
behind, their lower portions being lost amid bushes of
laurel. Inside the blue door, open half-way down, were to
be seen at this time the backs and tails of half-a-dozen
warm and contented horses standing in their stalls; and as
thus viewed, they presented alternations of roan and bay, in
shapes like a Moorish arch, the tail being a streak down the
midst of each. Over these, and lost to the eye gazing in
from the outer light, the mouths of the same animals could
be heard busily sustaining the above-named warmth and
plumpness by quantities of oats and hay. The restless and
shadowy figure of a colt wandered about a loose-box at the
end, whilst the steady grind of all the eaters was
occasionally diversified by the rattle of a rope or the
stamp of a foot.
Pacing up and down at the heels of the animals was Farmer
Boldwood himself. This place was his almonry and cloister
in one: here, after looking to the feeding of his four-
footed dependants, the celibate would walk and meditate of
an evening till the moon's rays streamed in through the
cobwebbed windows, or total darkness enveloped the scene.
His square-framed perpendicularity showed more fully now
than in the crowd and bustle of the market-house. In this
meditative walk his foot met the floor with heel and toe
simultaneously, and his fine reddish-fleshed face was bent
downwards just enough to render obscure the still mouth and
the well-rounded though rather prominent and broad chin. A
few clear and thread-like horizontal lines were the only
interruption to the otherwise smooth surface of his large
The phases of Boldwood's life were ordinary enough, but his
was not an ordinary nature. That stillness, which struck
casual observers more than anything else in his character
and habit, and seemed so precisely like the rest of
inanition, may have been the perfect balance of enormous
antagonistic forces -- positives and negatives in fine
adjustment. His equilibrium disturbed, he was in extremity
at once. If an emotion possessed him at all, it ruled him;
a feeling not mastering him was entirely latent. Stagnant
or rapid, it was never slow. He was always hit mortally, or
he was missed.
He had no light and careless touches in his constitution,
either for good or for evil. Stern in the outlines of
action, mild in the details, he was serious throughout all.
He saw no absurd sides to the follies of life, and thus,
though not quite companionable in the eyes of merry men and
scoffers, and those to whom all things show life as a jest,
he was not intolerable to the earnest and those acquainted
with grief. Being a man-who read all the dramas of life
seriously, if he failed to please when they were comedies,
there was no frivolous treatment to reproach him for when
they chanced to end tragically.
Bathsheba was far from dreaming that the dark and silent
shape upon which she had so carelessly thrown a seed was a
hotbed of tropic intensity. Had she known Boldwood's moods,
her blame would have been fearful, and the stain upon her
heart ineradicable. Moreover, had she known her present
power for good or evil over this man, she would have
trembled at her responsibility. Luckily for her present,
unluckily for her future tranquillity, her understanding had
not yet told her what Boldwood was. Nobody knew entirely;
for though it was possible to form guesses concerning his
wild capabilities from old floodmarks faintly visible, he
had never been seen at the high tides which caused them.
Farmer Boldwood came to the stable-door and looked forth
across the level fields. Beyond the first enclosure was a
hedge, and on the other side of this a meadow belonging to
It was now early spring -- the time of going to grass with
the sheep, when they have the first feed of the meadows,
before these are laid up for mowing. The wind, which had
been blowing east for several weeks, had veered to the
southward, and the middle of spring had come abruptly --
almost without a beginning. It was that period in the
vernal quarter when we map suppose the Dryads to be waking
for the season. The vegetable world begins to move and
swell and the saps to rise, till in the completest silence
of lone gardens and trackless plantations, where everything
seems helpless and still after the bond and slavery of
frost, there are bustlings, strainings, united thrusts, and
pulls-all-together, in comparison with which the powerful
tugs of cranes and pulleys in a noisy city are but pigmy
Boldwood, looking into the distant meadows, saw there three
figures. They were those of Miss Everdene, Shepherd Oak,
and Cainy Ball.
When Bathsheba's figure shone upon the farmer's eyes it
lighted him up as the moon lights up a great tower. A man's
body is as the shell, or the tablet, of his soul, as he is
reserved or ingenuous, overflowing or self-contained. There
was a change in Boldwood's exterior from its former
impassibleness; and his face showed that he was now living
outside his defences for the first time, and with a fearful
sense of exposure. It is the usual experience of strong
natures when they love.
At last he arrived at a conclusion. It was to go across and
inquire boldly of her.
The insulation of his heart by reserve during these many
years, without a channel of any kind for disposable emotion,
had worked its effect. It has been observed more than once
that the causes of love are chiefly subjective, and Boldwood
was a living testimony to the truth of the proposition. No
mother existed to absorb his devotion, no sister for his
tenderness, no idle ties for sense. He became surcharged
with the compound, which was genuine lover's love.
He approached the gate of the meadow. Beyond it the ground
was melodious with ripples, and the sky with larks; the low
bleating of the flock mingling with both. Mistress and man
were engaged in the operation of making a lamb "take," which
is performed whenever an ewe has lost her own offspring, one
of the twins of another ewe being given her as a substitute.
Gabriel had skinned the dead lamb, and was tying the skin
over the body of the live lamb, in the customary manner,
whilst Bathsheba was holding open a little pen of four
hurdles, into which the Mother and foisted lamb were driven,
where they would remain till the old sheep conceived an
affection for the young one.
Bathsheba looked up at the completion of the manouvre, and
saw the farmer by the gate, where he was overhung by a
willow tree in full bloom. Gabriel, to whom her face was as
the uncertain glory of an April day, was ever regardful of
its faintest changes, and instantly discerned thereon the
mark of some influence from without, in the form of a keenly
self-conscious reddening. He also turned and beheld
At once connecting these signs with the letter Boldwood had
shown him, Gabriel suspected her of some coquettish
procedure begun by that means, and carried on since, he knew
Farmer Boldwood had read the pantomime denoting that they
were aware of his presence, and the perception was as too
much light turned upon his new sensibility. He was still in
the road, and by moving on he hoped that neither would
recognize that he had originally intended to enter the
field. He passed by with an utter and overwhelming
sensation of ignorance, shyness, and doubt. Perhaps in her
manner there were signs that she wished to see him --
perhaps not -- he could not read a woman. The cabala of
this erotic philosophy seemed to consist of the subtlest
meanings expressed in misleading ways. Every turn, look,
word, and accent contained a mystery quite distinct from its
obvious import, and not one had ever been pondered by him
As for Bathsheba, she was not deceived into the belief that
Farmer Boldwood had walked by on business or in idleness.
She collected the probabilities of the case, and concluded
that she was herself responsible for Boldwood's appearance
there. It troubled her much to see what a great flame a
little wildfire was likely to kindle. Bathsheba was no
schemer for marriage, nor was she deliberately a trifler
with the affections of men, and a censor's experience on
seeing an actual flirt after observing her would have been a
feeling of surprise that Bathsheba could be so different
from such a one, and yet so like what a flirt is supposed to
She resolved never again, by look or by sign, to interrupt
the steady flow of this man's life. But a resolution to
avoid an evil is seldom framed till the evil is so far
advanced as to make avoidance impossible.
THE SHEEP-WASHING -- THE OFFER
BOLDWOOD did eventually call upon her. She was not at home.
"Of course not," he murmured. In contemplating Bathsheba as
a woman, he had forgotten the accidents of her position as
an agriculturist -- that being as much of a farmer, and as
extensive a farmer, as himself, her probable whereabouts was
out-of-doors at this time of the year. This, and the other
oversights Boldwood was guilty of, were natural to the mood,
and still more natural to the circumstances. The great aids
to idealization in love were present here: occasional
observation of her from a distance, and the absence of
social intercourse with her -- visual familiarity, oral
strangeness. The smaller human elements were kept out of
sight; the pettinesses that enter so largely into all
earthly living and doing were disguised by the accident of
lover and loved-one not being on visiting terms; and there
was hardly awakened a thought in Boldwood that sorry
household realities appertained to her, or that she, like
all others, had moments of commonplace, when to be least
plainly seen was to be most prettily remembered. Thus a
mild sort of apotheosis took place in his fancy, whilst she
still lived and breathed within his own horizon, a troubled
creature like himself.
It was the end of May when the farmer determined to be no
longer repulsed by trivialities or distracted by suspense.
He had by this time grown used to being in love; the passion
now startled him less even when it tortured him more, and he
felt himself adequate to the situation. On inquiring for
her at her house they had told him she was at the
sheepwashing, and he went off to seek her there.
The sheep-washing pool was a perfectly circular basin of
brickwork in the meadows, full of the clearest water. To
birds on the wing its glassy surface, reflecting the light
sky, must have been visible for miles around as a glistening
Cyclops' eye in a green face. The grass about the margin at
this season was a sight to remember long -- in a minor sort
of way. Its activity in sucking the moisture from the rich
damp sod was almost a process observable by the eye. The
outskirts of this level water-meadow were diversified by
rounded and hollow pastures, where just now every flower
that was not a buttercup was a daisy. The river slid along
noiselessly as a shade, the swelling reeds and sedge forming
a flexible palisade upon its moist brink. To the north of
the mead were trees, the leaves of which were new, soft, and
moist, not yet having stiffened and darkened under summer
sun and drought, their colour being yellow beside a green --
green beside a yellow. From the recesses of this knot of
foliage the loud notes of three cuckoos were resounding
through the still air.
Boldwood went meditating down the slopes with his eyes on
his boots, which the yellow pollen from the buttercups had
bronzed in artistic gradations. A tributary of the main
stream flowed through the basin of the pool by an inlet and
outlet at opposite points of its diameter. Shepherd Oak,
Jan Coggan, Moon, Poorgrass, Cain Ball, and several others
were assembled here, all dripping wet to the very roots of
their hair, and Bathsheba was standing by in a new riding-
habit -- the most elegant she had ever worn -- the reins of
her horse being looped over her arm. Flagons of cider were
rolling about upon the green. The meek sheep were pushed
into the pool by Coggan and Matthew Moon, who stood by the
lower hatch, immersed to their waists; then Gabriel, who
stood on the brink, thrust them under as they swam along,
with an instrument like a crutch, formed for the purpose,
and also for assisting the exhausted animals when the wool
became saturated and they began to sink. They were let out
against the stream, and through the upper opening, all
impurities flowing away below. Cainy Ball and Joseph, who
performed this latter operation, were if possible wetter
than the rest; they resembled dolphins under a fountain,
every protuberance and angle of their clothes dribbling
forth a small rill.
Boldwood came close and bade her good morning, with such
constraint that she could not but think he had stepped
across to the washing for its own sake, hoping not to find
her there; more, she fancied his brow severe and his eye
slighting. Bathsheba immediately contrived to withdraw, and
glided along by the river till she was a stone's throw off.
She heard footsteps brushing the grass, and had a
consciousness that love was encircling her like a perfume.
Instead of turning or waiting, Bathsheba went further among
the high sedges, but Boldwood seemed determined, and pressed
on till they were completely past the bend of the river.
Here, without being seen, they could hear the splashing and
shouts of the washers above.
"Miss Everdene!" said the farmer.
She trembled, turned, and said "Good morning." His tone was
so utterly removed from all she had expected as a beginning.
It was lowness and quiet accentuated: an emphasis of deep
meanings, their form, at the same time, being scarcely
expressed. Silence has sometimes a remarkable power of
showing itself as the disembodied soul of feeling wandering
without its carcase, and it is then more impressive than
speech. In the same way, to say a little is often to tell
more than to say a great deal. Boldwood told everything in
As the consciousness expands on learning that what was
fancied to be the rumble of wheels is the reverberation of
thunder, so did Bathsheba's at her intuitive conviction.
"I feel -- almost too much -- to think," he said, with a
solemn simplicity. "I have come to speak to you without
preface. My life is not my own since I have beheld you
clearly, Miss Everdene -- I come to make you an offer of
Bathsheba tried to preserve an absolutely neutral
countenance, and all the motion she made was that of closing
lips which had previously been a little parted.
"I am now forty-one years old," he went on. "I may have
been called a confirmed bachelor, and I was a confirmed
bachelor. I had never any views of myself as a husband in
my earlier days, nor have I made any calculation on the
subject since I have been older. But we all change, and my
change, in this matter, came with seeing you. I have felt
lately, more and more, that my present way of living is bad
in every respect. Beyond all things, I want you as my
"I feel, Mr. Boldwood, that though I respect you much, I do
not feel -- what would justify me to -- in accepting your
offer," she stammered.
This giving back of dignity for dignity seemed to open the
sluices of feeling that Boldwood had as yet kept closed.
"My life is a burden without you," he exclaimed, in a low
voice. "I want you -- I want you to let me say I love you
again and again!"
Bathsheba answered nothing, and the horse upon her arm
seemed so impressed that instead of cropping the herbage she
"I think and hope you care enough for me to listen to what I
have to tell!"
Bathsheba's momentary impulse at hearing this was to ask why
he thought that, till she remembered that, far from being a
conceited assumption on Boldwood's part, it was but the
natural conclusion of serious reflection based on deceptive
premises of her own offering.
"I wish I could say courteous flatteries to you," the farmer
continued in an easier tone, "and put my rugged feeling into
a graceful shape: but I have neither power nor patience to
learn such things. I want you for my wife -- so wildly that
no other feeling can abide in me; but I should not have
spoken out had I not been led to hope."
"The valentine again! O that valentine!" she said to
herself, but not a word to him.
"If you can love me say so, Miss Everdene. If not -- don't
"Mr. Boldwood, it is painful to have to say I am surprised,
so that I don't know how to answer you with propriety and
respect -- but am only just able to speak out my feeling --
I mean my meaning; that I am afraid I can't marry you, much
as I respect you. You are too dignified for me to suit you,
"But, Miss Everdene!"
"I -- I didn't -- I know I ought never to have dreamt of
sending that valentine -- forgive me, sir -- it was a wanton
thing which no woman with any self-respect should have done.
If you will only pardon my thoughtlessness, I promise never
"No, no, no. Don't say thoughtlessness! Make me think it
was something more -- that it was a sort of prophetic
instinct -- the beginning of a feeling that you would like
me. You torture me to say it was done in thoughtlessness --
I never thought of it in that light, and I can't endure it.
Ah! I wish I knew how to win you! but that I can't do -- I
can only ask if I have already got you. If I have not, and
it is not true that you have come unwittingly to me as I
have to you, I can say no more."
"I have not fallen in love with you, Mr. Boldwood --
certainly I must say that." She allowed a very small smile
to creep for the first time over her serious face in saying
this, and the white row of upper teeth, and keenly-cut lips
already noticed, suggested an idea of heartlessness, which
was immediately contradicted by the pleasant eyes.
"But you will just think -- in kindness and condescension
think -- if you cannot bear with me as a husband! I fear I
am too old for you, but believe me I will take more care of
you than would many a man of your own age. I will protect
and cherish you with all my strength -- I will indeed! You
shall have no cares -- be worried by no household affairs,
and live quite at ease, Miss Everdene. The dairy
superintendence shall be done by a man -- I can afford it
will -- you shall never have so much as to look out of doors
at haymaking time, or to think of weather in the harvest. I
rather cling; to the chaise, because it is he same my poor
father and mother drove, but if you don't like it I will
sell it, and you shall have a pony-carriage of your own. I
cannot say how far above every other idea and object on
earth you seem to me -- nobody knows -- God only knows --
how much you are to me!"
Bathsheba's heart was young, and it swelled with sympathy
for the deep-natured man who spoke so simply.
"Don't say it! don't! I cannot bear you to feel so much, and
me to feel nothing. And I am afraid they will notice us,
Mr. Boldwood. Will you let the matter rest now? I cannot
think collectedly. I did not know you were going to say
this to me. Oh, I am wicked to have made you suffer so!"
She was frightened as well as agitated at his vehemence.
"Say then, that you don't absolutely refuse. Do not quite
"I can do nothing. I cannot answer.
"I may speak to you again on the subject?"
"I may think of you?"
"Yes, I suppose you may think of me."
"And hope to obtain you?"
"No -- do not hope! Let us go on."
"I will call upon you again to-morrow."
"No -- please not. Give me time."
"Yes -- I will give you any time," he said earnestly and
gratefully. "I am happier now."
"No -- I beg you! Don't be happier if happiness only comes
from my agreeing. Be neutral, Mr. Boldwood! I must think."
"I will wait," he said.
And then she turned away. Boldwood dropped his gaze to the
ground, and stood long like a man who did not know where he
was. Realities then returned upon him like the pain of a
wound received in an excitement which eclipses it, and he,
too, then went on.
PERPLEXITY -- GRINDING THE SHEARS -- A QUARREL
"HE is so disinterested and kind to offer me all that I can
desire," Bathsheba mused.
Yet Farmer Boldwood, whether by nature kind or the reverse
to kind, did not exercise kindness, here. The rarest
offerings of the purest loves are but a self-indulgence, and
no generosity at all.
Bathsheba, not being the least in love with him, was
eventually able to look calmly at his offer. It was one
which many women of her own station in the neighbourhood,
and not a few of higher rank, would have been wild to accept
and proud to publish. In every point of view, ranging from
politic to passionate, it was desirable that she, a lonely
girl, should marry, and marry this earnest, well-to-do, and
respected man. He was close to her doors: his standing was
sufficient: his qualities were even supererogatory. Had
she felt, which she did not, any wish whatever for the
married state in the abstract, she could not reasonably have
rejected him, being a woman who frequently appealed to her
understanding for deliverance from her whims. Boldwood as a
means to marriage was unexceptionable: she esteemed and
liked him, yet she did not want him. It appears that
ordinary men take wives because possession is not possible
without marriage, and that ordinary women accept husbands
because marriage is not possible without possession; with
totally differing aims the method is the same on both sides.
But the understood incentive on the woman's part was wanting
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