Life's Little Ironies and a Few Crusted Characters
Part 4 out of 5
asleep and dreamed of battle, smoke, and flying soldiers, all of a
kind with the doings he had been bringing up to me.
'How long my nap lasted I am not prepared to say. But some faint
sounds over and above the rustle of the ewes in the straw, the bleat
of the lambs, and the tinkle of the sheep-bell brought me to my
waking senses. Uncle Job was still beside me; but he too had fallen
asleep. I looked out from the straw, and saw what it was that had
aroused me. Two men, in boat-cloaks, cocked hats, and swords, stood
by the hurdles about twenty yards off.
'I turned my ear thitherward to catch what they were saying, but
though I heard every word o't, not one did I understand. They spoke
in a tongue that was not ours--in French, as I afterward found. But
if I could not gain the meaning of a word, I was shrewd boy enough to
find out a deal of the talkers' business. By the light o' the moon I
could see that one of 'em carried a roll of paper in his hand, while
every moment he spoke quick to his comrade, and pointed right and
left with the other hand to spots along the shore. There was no
doubt that he was explaining to the second gentleman the shapes and
features of the coast. What happened soon after made this still
clearer to me.
'All this time I had not waked Uncle Job, but now I began to be
afeared that they might light upon us, because uncle breathed so
heavily through's nose. I put my mouth to his ear and whispered,
'"What is it, my boy?" he said, just as if he hadn't been asleep at
'"Hush!" says I. "Two French generals--"
'"French?" says he.
'"Yes," says I. "Come to see where to land their army!"
'I pointed 'em out; but I could say no more, for the pair were coming
at that moment much nearer to where we lay. As soon as they got as
near as eight or ten yards, the officer with a roll in his hand
stooped down to a slanting hurdle, unfastened his roll upon it, and
spread it out. Then suddenly he sprung a dark lantern open on the
paper, and showed it to be a map.
'"What be they looking at?" I whispered to Uncle Job.
'"A chart of the Channel," says the sergeant (knowing about such
'The other French officer now stooped likewise, and over the map they
had a long consultation, as they pointed here and there on the paper,
and then hither and thither at places along the shore beneath us. I
noticed that the manner of one officer was very respectful toward the
other, who seemed much his superior, the second in rank calling him
by a sort of title that I did not know the sense of. The head one,
on the other hand, was quite familiar with his friend, and more than
once clapped him on the shoulder.
'Uncle Job had watched as well as I, but though the map had been in
the lantern-light, their faces had always been in shade. But when
they rose from stooping over the chart the light flashed upward, and
fell smart upon one of 'em's features. No sooner had this happened
than Uncle Job gasped, and sank down as if he'd been in a fit.
'"What is it--what is it, Uncle Job?" said I.
'"O good God!" says he, under the straw.
'"What?" says I.
'"Boney!" he groaned out.
'"Who?" says I.
'"Bonaparty," he said. "The Corsican ogre. O that I had got but my
new-flinted firelock, that there man should die! But I haven't got
my new-flinted firelock, and that there man must live. So lie low,
as you value your life!"
'I did lie low, as you mid suppose. But I couldn't help peeping.
And then I too, lad as I was, knew that it was the face of Bonaparte.
Not know Boney? I should think I did know Boney. I should have
known him by half the light o' that lantern. If I had seen a picture
of his features once, I had seen it a hundred times. There was his
bullet head, his short neck, his round yaller cheeks and chin, his
gloomy face, and his great glowing eyes. He took off his hat to blow
himself a bit, and there was the forelock in the middle of his
forehead, as in all the draughts of him. In moving, his cloak fell a
little open, and I could see for a moment his white-fronted jacket
and one of his epaulets.
'But none of this lasted long. In a minute he and his general had
rolled up the map, shut the lantern, and turned to go down toward the
'Then Uncle Job came to himself a bit. "Slipped across in the night-
time to see how to put his men ashore," he said. "The like o' that
man's coolness eyes will never again see! Nephew, I must act in
this, and immediate, or England's lost!"
'When they were over the brow, we crope out, and went some little way
to look after them. Half-way down they were joined by two others,
and six or seven minutes brought them to the shore. Then, from
behind a rock, a boat came out into the weak moonlight of the Cove,
and they jumped in; it put off instantly, and vanished in a few
minutes between the two rocks that stand at the mouth of the Cove as
we all know. We climmed back to where we had been before, and I
could see, a little way out, a larger vessel, though still not very
large. The little boat drew up alongside, was made fast at the stern
as I suppose, for the largest sailed away, and we saw no more.
'My uncle Job told his officers as soon as he got back to camp; but
what they thought of it I never heard--neither did he. Boney's army
never came, and a good job for me; for the Cove below my father's
house was where he meant to land, as this secret visit showed. We
coast-folk should have been cut down one and all, and I should not
have sat here to tell this tale.'
We who listened to old Selby that night have been familiar with his
simple grave-stone for these ten years past. Thanks to the
incredulity of the age his tale has been seldom repeated. But if
anything short of the direct testimony of his own eyes could persuade
an auditor that Bonaparte had examined these shores for himself with
a view to a practicable landing-place, it would have been Solomon
Selby's manner of narrating the adventure which befell him on the
A FEW CRUSTED CHARACTERS
It is a Saturday afternoon of blue and yellow autumn time, and the
scene is the High Street of a well-known market-town. A large
carrier's van stands in the quadrangular fore-court of the White Hart
Inn, upon the sides of its spacious tilt being painted, in weather-
beaten letters: 'Burthen, Carrier to Longpuddle.' These vans, so
numerous hereabout, are a respectable, if somewhat lumbering, class
of conveyance, much resorted to by decent travellers not overstocked
with money, the better among them roughly corresponding to the old
The present one is timed to leave the town at four in the afternoon
precisely, and it is now half-past three by the clock in the turret
at the top of the street. In a few seconds errand-boys from the
shops begin to arrive with packages, which they fling into the
vehicle, and turn away whistling, and care for the packages no more.
At twenty minutes to four an elderly woman places her basket upon the
shafts, slowly mounts, takes up a seat inside, and folds her hands
and her lips. She has secured her corner for the journey, though
there is as yet no sign of a horse being put in, nor of a carrier.
At the three-quarters, two other women arrive, in whom the first
recognizes the postmistress of Upper Longpuddle and the registrar's
wife, they recognizing her as the aged groceress of the same village.
At five minutes to the hour there approach Mr. Profitt, the
schoolmaster, in a soft felt hat, and Christopher Twink, the master-
thatcher; and as the hour strikes there rapidly drop in the parish
clerk and his wife, the seedsman and his aged father, the registrar;
also Mr. Day, the world-ignored local landscape-painter, an elderly
man who resides in his native place, and has never sold a picture
outside it, though his pretensions to art have been nobly supported
by his fellow-villagers, whose confidence in his genius has been as
remarkable as the outer neglect of it, leading them to buy his
paintings so extensively (at the price of a few shillings each, it is
true) that every dwelling in the parish exhibits three or four of
those admired productions on its walls.
Burthen, the carrier, is by this time seen bustling round the
vehicle; the horses are put in, the proprietor arranges the reins and
springs up into his seat as if he were used to it--which he is.
'Is everybody here?' he asks preparatorily over his shoulder to the
As those who were not there did not reply in the negative the muster
was assumed to be complete, and after a few hitches and hindrances
the van with its human freight was got under way. It jogged on at an
easy pace till it reached the bridge which formed the last outpost of
the town. The carrier pulled up suddenly.
'Bless my soul!' he said, 'I've forgot the curate!'
All who could do so gazed from the little back window of the van, but
the curate was not in sight.
'Now I wonder where that there man is?' continued the carrier.
'Poor man, he ought to have a living at his time of life.'
'And he ought to be punctual,' said the carrier. '"Four o'clock
sharp is my time for starting," I said to 'en. And he said, "I'll be
there." Now he's not here, and as a serious old church-minister he
ought to be as good as his word. Perhaps Mr. Flaxton knows, being in
the same line of life?' He turned to the parish clerk.
'I was talking an immense deal with him, that's true, half an hour
ago,' replied that ecclesiastic, as one of whom it was no erroneous
supposition that he should be on intimate terms with another of the
cloth. 'But he didn't say he would be late.'
The discussion was cut off by the appearance round the corner of the
van of rays from the curate's spectacles, followed hastily by his
face and a few white whiskers, and the swinging tails of his long
gaunt coat. Nobody reproached him, seeing how he was reproaching
himself; and he entered breathlessly and took his seat.
'Now be we all here?' said the carrier again. They started a second
time, and moved on till they were about three hundred yards out of
the town, and had nearly reached the second bridge, behind which, as
every native remembers, the road takes a turn and travellers by this
highway disappear finally from the view of gazing burghers.
'Well, as I'm alive!' cried the postmistress from the interior of the
conveyance, peering through the little square back-window along the
'What?' said the carrier.
'A man hailing us!'
Another sudden stoppage. 'Somebody else?' the carrier asked.
'Ay, sure!' All waited silently, while those who could gaze out did
'Now, who can that be?' Burthen continued. 'I just put it to ye,
neighbours, can any man keep time with such hindrances? Bain't we
full a'ready? Who in the world can the man be?'
'He's a sort of gentleman,' said the schoolmaster, his position
commanding the road more comfortably than that of his comrades.
The stranger, who had been holding up his umbrella to attract their
notice, was walking forward leisurely enough, now that he found, by
their stopping, that it had been secured. His clothes were decidedly
not of a local cut, though it was difficult to point out any
particular mark of difference. In his left hand he carried a small
leather travelling bag. As soon as he had overtaken the van he
glanced at the inscription on its side, as if to assure himself that
he had hailed the right conveyance, and asked if they had room.
The carrier replied that though they were pretty well laden he
supposed they could carry one more, whereupon the stranger mounted,
and took the seat cleared for him within. And then the horses made
another move, this time for good, and swung along with their burden
of fourteen souls all told.
'You bain't one of these parts, sir?' said the carrier. 'I could
tell that as far as I could see 'ee.'
'Yes, I am one of these parts,' said the stranger.
The silence which followed seemed to imply a doubt of the truth of
the new-comer's assertion. 'I was speaking of Upper Longpuddle more
particular,' continued the carrier hardily, 'and I think I know most
faces of that valley.'
'I was born at Longpuddle, and nursed at Longpuddle, and my father
and grandfather before me,' said the passenger quietly.
'Why, to be sure,' said the aged groceress in the background, 'it
isn't John Lackland's son--never--it can't be--he who went to foreign
parts five-and-thirty years ago with his wife and family? Yet--what
do I hear?--that's his father's voice!'
'That's the man,' replied the stranger. 'John Lackland was my
father, and I am John Lackland's son. Five-and-thirty years ago,
when I was a boy of eleven, my parents emigrated across the seas,
taking me and my sister with them. Kytes's boy Tony was the one who
drove us and our belongings to Casterbridge on the morning we left;
and his was the last Longpuddle face I saw. We sailed the same week
across the ocean, and there we've been ever since, and there I've
left those I went with--all three.'
'Alive or dead?'
'Dead,' he replied in a low voice. 'And I have come back to the old
place, having nourished a thought--not a definite intention, but just
a thought--that I should like to return here in a year or two, to
spend the remainder of my days.'
'Married man, Mr. Lackland?'
'And have the world used 'ee well, sir--or rather John, knowing 'ee
as a child? In these rich new countries that we hear of so much,
you've got rich with the rest?'
'I am not very rich,' Mr. Lackland said. 'Even in new countries, you
know, there are failures. The race is not always to the swift, nor
the battle to the strong; and even if it sometimes is, you may be
neither swift nor strong. However, that's enough about me. Now,
having answered your inquiries, you must answer mine; for being in
London, I have come down here entirely to discover what Longpuddle is
looking like, and who are living there. That was why I preferred a
seat in your van to hiring a carriage for driving across.'
'Well, as for Longpuddle, we rub on there much as usual. Old figures
have dropped out o' their frames, so to speak it, and new ones have
been put in their places. You mentioned Tony Kytes as having been
the one to drive your family and your goods to Casterbridge in his
father's waggon when you left. Tony is, I believe, living still, but
not at Longpuddle. He went away and settled at Lewgate, near
Mellstock, after his marriage. Ah, Tony was a sort o' man!'
'His character had hardly come out when I knew him.'
'No. But 'twas well enough, as far as that goes--except as to women.
I shall never forget his courting--never!'
The returned villager waited silently, and the carrier went on:-
TONY KYTES, THE ARCH-DECEIVER
'I shall never forget Tony's face. 'Twas a little, round, firm,
tight face, with a seam here and there left by the smallpox, but not
enough to hurt his looks in a woman's eye, though he'd had it badish
when he was a boy. So very serious looking and unsmiling 'a was,
that young man, that it really seemed as if he couldn't laugh at all
without great pain to his conscience. He looked very hard at a small
speck in your eye when talking to 'ee. And there was no more sign of
a whisker or beard on Tony Kytes's face than on the palm of my hand.
He used to sing "The Tailor's Breeches" with a religious manner, as
if it were a hymn:-
'"O the petticoats went off, and the breeches they went on!"
and all the rest of the scandalous stuff. He was quite the women's
favourite, and in return for their likings he loved 'em in shoals.
'But in course of time Tony got fixed down to one in particular,
Milly Richards, a nice, light, small, tender little thing; and it was
soon said that they were engaged to be married. One Saturday he had
been to market to do business for his father, and was driving home
the waggon in the afternoon. When he reached the foot of the very
hill we shall be going over in ten minutes who should he see waiting
for him at the top but Unity Sallet, a handsome girl, one of the
young women he'd been very tender toward before he'd got engaged to
'As soon as Tony came up to her she said, "My dear Tony, will you
give me a lift home?"
'"That I will, darling," said Tony. "You don't suppose I could
'She smiled a smile, and up she hopped, and on drove Tony.
'"Tony," she says, in a sort of tender chide, "why did ye desert me
for that other one? In what is she better than I? I should have
made 'ee a finer wife, and a more loving one too. 'Tisn't girls that
are so easily won at first that are the best. Think how long we've
known each other--ever since we were children almost--now haven't we,
'"Yes, that we have," says Tony, a-struck with the truth o't.
'"And you've never seen anything in me to complain of, have ye, Tony?
Now tell the truth to me?"
'"I never have, upon my life," says Tony.
'"And--can you say I'm not pretty, Tony? Now look at me!"
'He let his eyes light upon her for a long while. "I really can't,"
says he. "In fact, I never knowed you was so pretty before!"
'"Prettier than she?"
'What Tony would have said to that nobody knows, for before he could
speak, what should he see ahead, over the hedge past the turning, but
a feather he knew well--the feather in Milly's hat--she to whom he
had been thinking of putting the question as to giving out the banns
that very week.
'"Unity," says he, as mild as he could, "here's Milly coming. Now I
shall catch it mightily if she sees 'ee riding here with me; and if
you get down she'll be turning the corner in a moment, and, seeing
'ee in the road, she'll know we've been coming on together. Now,
dearest Unity, will ye, to avoid all unpleasantness, which I know ye
can't bear any more than I, will ye lie down in the back part of the
waggon, and let me cover you over with the tarpaulin till Milly has
passed? It will all be done in a minute. Do!--and I'll think over
what we've said; and perhaps I shall put a loving question to you
after all, instead of to Milly. 'Tisn't true that it is all settled
between her and me."
'Well, Unity Sallet agreed, and lay down at the back end of the
waggon, and Tony covered her over, so that the waggon seemed to be
empty but for the loose tarpaulin; and then he drove on to meet
'"My dear Tony!" cries Milly, looking up with a little pout at him as
he came near. "How long you've been coming home! Just as if I
didn't live at Upper Longpuddle at all! And I've come to meet you as
you asked me to do, and to ride back with you, and talk over our
future home--since you asked me, and I promised. But I shouldn't
have come else, Mr. Tony!"
'"Ay, my dear, I did ask ye--to be sure I did, now I think of it--but
I had quite forgot it. To ride back with me, did you say, dear
'"Well, of course! What can I do else? Surely you don't want me to
walk, now I've come all this way?"
'"O no, no! I was thinking you might be going on to town to meet
your mother. I saw her there--and she looked as if she might be
'"O no; she's just home. She came across the fields, and so got back
'"Ah! I didn't know that," says Tony. And there was no help for it
but to take her up beside him.
'They talked on very pleasantly, and looked at the trees, and beasts,
and birds, and insects, and at the ploughmen at work in the fields,
till presently who should they see looking out of the upper window of
a house that stood beside the road they were following, but Hannah
Jolliver, another young beauty of the place at that time, and the
very first woman that Tony had fallen in love with--before Milly and
before Unity, in fact--the one that he had almost arranged to marry
instead of Milly. She was a much more dashing girl than Milly
Richards, though he'd not thought much of her of late. The house
Hannah was looking from was her aunt's.
'"My dear Milly--my coming wife, as I may call 'ee," says Tony in his
modest way, and not so loud that Unity could overhear, "I see a young
woman alooking out of window, who I think may accost me. The fact
is, Milly, she had a notion that I was wishing to marry her, and
since she's discovered I've promised another, and a prettier than
she, I'm rather afeard of her temper if she sees us together. Now,
Milly, would you do me a favour--my coming wife, as I may say?"
'"Certainly, dearest Tony," says she.
'"Then would ye creep under the empty sacks just here in the front of
the waggon, and hide there out of sight till we've passed the house?
She hasn't seen us yet. You see, we ought to live in peace and good-
will since 'tis almost Christmas, and 'twill prevent angry passions
rising, which we always should do."
'"I don't mind, to oblige you, Tony," Milly said; and though she
didn't care much about doing it, she crept under, and crouched down
just behind the seat, Unity being snug at the other end. So they
drove on till they got near the road-side cottage. Hannah had soon
seen him coming, and waited at the window, looking down upon him.
She tossed her head a little disdainful and smiled off-hand.
'"Well, aren't you going to be civil enough to ask me to ride home
with you!" she says, seeing that he was for driving past with a nod
and a smile.
'"Ah, to be sure! What was I thinking of?" said Tony, in a flutter.
"But you seem as if you was staying at your aunt's?"
'"No, I am not," she said. "Don't you see I have my bonnet and
jacket on? I have only called to see her on my way home. How can
you be so stupid, Tony?"
'"In that case--ah--of course you must come along wi' me," says Tony,
feeling a dim sort of sweat rising up inside his clothes. And he
reined in the horse, and waited till she'd come downstairs, and then
helped her up beside him. He drove on again, his face as long as a
face that was a round one by nature well could be.
'Hannah looked round sideways into his eyes. "This is nice, isn't
it, Tony?" she says. "I like riding with you."
'Tony looked back into her eyes. "And I with you," he said after a
while. In short, having considered her, he warmed up, and the more
he looked at her the more he liked her, till he couldn't for the life
of him think why he had ever said a word about marriage to Milly or
Unity while Hannah Jolliver was in question. So they sat a little
closer and closer, their feet upon the foot-board and their shoulders
touching, and Tony thought over and over again how handsome Hannah
was. He spoke tenderer and tenderer, and called her "dear Hannah" in
a whisper at last.
'"You've settled it with Milly by this time, I suppose," said she.
'"N-no, not exactly."
'"What? How low you talk, Tony."
'"Yes--I've a kind of hoarseness. I said, not exactly."
'"I suppose you mean to?"
'"Well, as to that--" His eyes rested on her face, and hers on his.
He wondered how he could have been such a fool as not to follow up
Hannah. "My sweet Hannah!" he bursts out, taking her hand, not being
really able to help it, and forgetting Milly and Unity, and all the
world besides. "Settled it? I don't think I have!"
'"Hark!" says Hannah.
'"What?" says Tony, letting go her hand.
'"Surely I heard a sort of little screaming squeak under those sacks?
Why, you've been carrying corn, and there's mice in this waggon, I
declare!" She began to haul up the tails of her gown.
'"Oh no; 'tis the axle," said Tony in an assuring way. "It do go
like that sometimes in dry weather."
'"Perhaps it was . . . Well, now, to be quite honest, dear Tony, do
you like her better than me? Because--because, although I've held
off so independent, I'll own at last that I do like 'ee, Tony, to
tell the truth; and I wouldn't say no if you asked me--you know
'Tony was so won over by this pretty offering mood of a girl who had
been quite the reverse (Hannah had a backward way with her at times,
if you can mind) that he just glanced behind, and then whispered very
soft, "I haven't quite promised her, and I think I can get out of it,
and ask you that question you speak of."
'"Throw over Milly?--all to marry me! How delightful!" broke out
Hannah, quite loud, clapping her hands.
'At this there was a real squeak--an angry, spiteful squeak, and
afterward a long moan, as if something had broke its heart, and a
movement of the empty sacks.
'"Something's there!" said Hannah, starting up.
'"It's nothing, really," says Tony in a soothing voice, and praying
inwardly for a way out of this. "I wouldn't tell 'ee at first,
because I wouldn't frighten 'ee. But, Hannah, I've really a couple
of ferrets in a bag under there, for rabbiting, and they quarrel
sometimes. I don't wish it knowed, as 'twould be called poaching.
Oh, they can't get out, bless ye--you are quite safe! And--and--what
a fine day it is, isn't it, Hannah, for this time of year? Be you
going to market next Saturday? How is your aunt now?" And so on,
says Tony, to keep her from talking any more about love in Milly's
'But he found his work cut out for him, and wondering again how he
should get out of this ticklish business, he looked about for a
chance. Nearing home he saw his father in a field not far off,
holding up his hand as if he wished to speak to Tony.
'"Would you mind taking the reins a moment, Hannah," he said, much
relieved, "while I go and find out what father wants?"
'She consented, and away he hastened into the field, only too glad to
get breathing time. He found that his father was looking at him with
rather a stern eye.
'"Come, come, Tony," says old Mr. Kytes, as soon as his son was
alongside him, "this won't do, you know."
'"What?" says Tony.
'"Why, if you mean to marry Milly Richards, do it, and there's an end
o't. But don't go driving about the country with Jolliver's daughter
and making a scandal. I won't have such things done."
'"I only asked her--that is, she asked me, to ride home."
'"She? Why, now, if it had been Milly, 'twould have been quite
proper; but you and Hannah Jolliver going about by yourselves--"
'"Milly's there too, father."
'"Under the corn-sacks! Yes, the truth is, father, I've got rather
into a nunny-watch, I'm afeard! Unity Sallet is there too--yes, at
the other end, under the tarpaulin. All three are in that waggon,
and what to do with 'em I know no more than the dead! The best plan
is, as I'm thinking, to speak out loud and plain to one of 'em before
the rest, and that will settle it; not but what 'twill cause 'em to
kick up a bit of a miff, for certain. Now which would you marry,
father, if you was in my place?"
'"Whichever of 'em did NOT ask to ride with thee."
'"That was Milly, I'm bound to say, as she only mounted by my
invitation. But Milly--"
"Then stick to Milly, she's the best . . . But look at that!"
'His father pointed toward the waggon. "She can't hold that horse
in. You shouldn't have left the reins in her hands. Run on and take
the horse's head, or there'll be some accident to them maids!"
'Tony's horse, in fact, in spite of Hannah's tugging at the reins,
had started on his way at a brisk walking pace, being very anxious to
get back to the stable, for he had had a long day out. Without
another word Tony rushed away from his father to overtake the horse.
'Now of all things that could have happened to wean him from Milly
there was nothing so powerful as his father's recommending her. No;
it could not be Milly, after all. Hannah must be the one, since he
could not marry all three. This he thought while running after the
waggon. But queer things were happening inside it.
'It was, of course, Milly who had screamed under the sack-bags, being
obliged to let off her bitter rage and shame in that way at what Tony
was saying, and never daring to show, for very pride and dread o'
being laughed at, that she was in hiding. She became more and more
restless, and in twisting herself about, what did she see but another
woman's foot and white stocking close to her head. It quite
frightened her, not knowing that Unity Sallet was in the waggon
likewise. But after the fright was over she determined to get to the
bottom of all this, and she crept arid crept along the bed of the
waggon, under the tarpaulin, like a snake, when lo and behold she
came face to face with Unity.
'"Well, if this isn't disgraceful!" says Milly in a raging whisper to
'"'Tis," says Unity, "to see you hiding in a young man's waggon like
this, and no great character belonging to either of ye!"
'"Mind what you are saying!" replied Milly, getting louder. "I am
engaged to be married to him, and haven't I a right to be here? What
right have you, I should like to know? What has he been promising
you? A pretty lot of nonsense, I expect! But what Tony says to
other women is all mere wind, and no concern to me!"
'"Don't you be too sure!" says Unity. "He's going to have Hannah,
and not you, nor me either; I could hear that."
'Now at these strange voices sounding from under the cloth Hannah was
thunderstruck a'most into a swound; and it was just at this time that
the horse moved on. Hannah tugged away wildly, not knowing what she
was doing; and as the quarrel rose louder and louder Hannah got so
horrified that she let go the reins altogether. The horse went on at
his own pace, and coming to the corner where we turn round to drop
down the hill to Lower Longpuddle he turned too quick, the off wheels
went up the bank, the waggon rose sideways till it was quite on edge
upon the near axles, and out rolled the three maidens into the road
in a heap.
'When Tony came up, frightened and breathless, he was relieved enough
to see that neither of his darlings was hurt, beyond a few scratches
from the brambles of the hedge. But he was rather alarmed when he
heard how they were going on at one another.
'"Don't ye quarrel, my dears--don't ye!" says he, taking off his hat
out of respect to 'em. And then he would have kissed them all round,
as fair and square as a man could, but they were in too much of a
taking to let him, and screeched and sobbed till they was quite
'"Now I'll speak out honest, because I ought to," says Tony, as soon
as he could get heard. "And this is the truth," says he. "I've
asked Hannah to be mine, and she is willing, and we are going to put
up the banns next--"
'Tony had not noticed that Hannah's father was coming up behind, nor
had he noticed that Hannah's face was beginning to bleed from the
scratch of a bramble. Hannah had seen her father, and had run to
him, crying worse than ever.
'"My daughter is NOT willing, sir!" says Mr. Jolliver hot and strong.
"Be you willing, Hannah? I ask ye to have spirit enough to refuse
him, if yer virtue is left to 'ee and you run no risk?"
'"She's as sound as a bell for me, that I'll swear!" says Tony,
flaring up. "And so's the others, come to that, though you may think
it an onusual thing in me!"
'"I have spirit, and I do refuse him!" says Hannah, partly because
her father was there, and partly, too, in a tantrum because of the
discovery, and the scratch on her face. "Little did I think when I
was so soft with him just now that I was talking to such a false
'"What, you won't have me, Hannah?" says Tony, his jaw hanging down
like a dead man's.
'"Never--I would sooner marry no--nobody at all!" she gasped out,
though with her heart in her throat, for she would not have refused
Tony if he had asked her quietly, and her father had not been there,
and her face had not been scratched by the bramble. And having said
that, away she walked upon her father's arm, thinking and hoping he
would ask her again.
'Tony didn't know what to say next. Milly was sobbing her heart out;
but as his father had strongly recommended her he couldn't feel
inclined that way. So he turned to Unity.
'"Well, will you, Unity dear, be mine?" he says.
'"Take her leavings? Not I!" says Unity. "I'd scorn it!" And away
walks Unity Sallet likewise, though she looked back when she'd gone
some way, to see if he was following her.
'So there at last were left Milly and Tony by themselves, she crying
in watery streams, and Tony looking like a tree struck by lightning.
'"Well, Milly," he says at last, going up to her, "it do seem as if
fate had ordained that it should be you and I, or nobody. And what
must be must be, I suppose. Hey, Milly?"
'"If you like, Tony. You didn't really mean what you said to them?"
'"Not a word of it!" declares Tony, bringing down his fist upon his
'And then he kissed her, and put the waggon to rights, and they
mounted together; and their banns were put up the very next Sunday.
I was not able to go to their wedding, but it was a rare party they
had, by all account. Everybody in Longpuddle was there almost; you
among the rest, I think, Mr. Flaxton?' The speaker turned to the
'I was,' said Mr. Flaxton. 'And that party was the cause of a very
curious change in some other people's affairs; I mean in Steve
Hardcome's and his cousin James's.'
'Ah! the Hardcomes,' said the stranger. 'How familiar that name is
to me! What of them?'
The clerk cleared his throat and began:-
THE HISTORY OF THE HARDCOMES
'Yes, Tony's was the very best wedding-randy that ever I was at; and
I've been at a good many, as you may suppose'--turning to the newly-
arrived one--'having as a church-officer, the privilege to attend all
christening, wedding, and funeral parties--such being our Wessex
''Twas on a frosty night in Christmas week, and among the folk
invited were the said Hardcomes o' Climmerston--Steve and James--
first cousins, both of them small farmers, just entering into
business on their own account. With them came, as a matter of
course, their intended wives, two young women of the neighbourhood,
both very pretty and sprightly maidens, and numbers of friends from
Abbot's-Cernel, and Weatherbury, and Mellstock, and I don't know
where--a regular houseful.
'The kitchen was cleared of furniture for dancing, and the old folk
played at "Put" and "All-fours" in the parlour, though at last they
gave that up to join in the dance. The top of the figure was by the
large front window of the room, and there were so many couples that
the lower part of the figure reached through the door at the back,
and into the darkness of the out-house; in fact, you couldn't see the
end of the row at all, and 'twas never known exactly how long that
dance was, the lowest couples being lost among the faggots and
brushwood in the out-house.
'When we had danced a few hours, and the crowns of we taller men were
swelling into lumps with bumping the beams of the ceiling, the first
fiddler laid down his fiddle-bow, and said he should play no more,
for he wished to dance. And in another hour the second fiddler laid
down his, and said he wanted to dance too; so there was only the
third fiddler left, and he was a' old, veteran man, very weak in the
wrist. However, he managed to keep up a faltering tweedle-dee; but
there being no chair in the room, and his knees being as weak as his
wrists, he was obliged to sit upon as much of the little corner-table
as projected beyond the corner-cupboard fixed over it, which was not
a very wide seat for a man advanced in years.
'Among those who danced most continually were the two engaged
couples, as was natural to their situation. Each pair was very well
matched, and very unlike the other. James Hardcome's intended was
called Emily Darth, and both she and James were gentle, nice-minded,
in-door people, fond of a quiet life. Steve and his chosen, named
Olive Pawle, were different; they were of a more bustling nature,
fond of racketing about and seeing what was going on in the world.
The two couples had arranged to get married on the same day, and that
not long thence; Tony's wedding being a sort of stimulant, as is
often the case; I've noticed it professionally many times.
'They danced with such a will as only young people in that stage of
courtship can dance; and it happened that as the evening wore on
James had for his partner Stephen's plighted one, Olive, at the same
time that Stephen was dancing with James's Emily. It was noticed
that in spite o' the exchange the young men seemed to enjoy the dance
no less than before. By and by they were treading another tune in
the same changed order as we had noticed earlier, and though at first
each one had held the other's mistress strictly at half-arm's length,
lest there should be shown any objection to too close quarters by the
lady's proper man, as time passed there was a little more closeness
between 'em; and presently a little more closeness still.
'The later it got the more did each of the two cousins dance with the
wrong young girl, and the tighter did he hold her to his side as he
whirled her round; and, what was very remarkable, neither seemed to
mind what the other was doing. The party began to draw towards its
end, and I saw no more that night, being one of the first to leave,
on account of my morning's business. But I learnt the rest of it
from those that knew.
'After finishing a particularly warming dance with the changed
partners, as I've mentioned, the two young men looked at one another,
and in a moment or two went out into the porch together.
'"James," says Steve, "what were you thinking of when you were
dancing with my Olive?"
'"Well," said James, "perhaps what you were thinking of when you were
dancing with my Emily."
'"I was thinking," said Steve, with some hesitation, "that I wouldn't
mind changing for good and all!"
'"It was what I was feeling likewise," said James.
'"I willingly agree to it, if you think we could manage it."
'"So do I. But what would the girls say?"
'"'Tis my belief," said Steve, "that they wouldn't particularly
object. Your Emily clung as close to me as if she already belonged
to me, dear girl."
'"And your Olive to me," says James. "I could feel her heart beating
like a clock."
'Well, they agreed to put it to the girls when they were all four
walking home together. And they did so. When they parted that night
the exchange was decided on--all having been done under the hot
excitement of that evening's dancing. Thus it happened that on the
following Sunday morning, when the people were sitting in church with
mouths wide open to hear the names published as they had expected,
there was no small amazement to hear them coupled the wrong way, as
it seemed. The congregation whispered, and thought the parson had
made a mistake; till they discovered that his reading of the names
was verily the true way. As they had decided, so they were married,
each one to the other's original property.
'Well, the two couples lived on for a year or two ordinarily enough,
till the time came when these young people began to grow a little
less warm to their respective spouses, as is the rule of married
life; and the two cousins wondered more and more in their hearts what
had made 'em so mad at the last moment to marry crosswise as they
did, when they might have married straight, as was planned by nature,
and as they had fallen in love. 'Twas Tony's party that had done IT,
plain enough, and they half wished they had never gone there. James,
being a quiet, fireside, perusing man, felt at times a wide gap
between himself and Olive, his wife, who loved riding and driving and
out--door jaunts to a degree; while Steve, who was always knocking
about hither and thither, had a very domestic wife, who worked
samplers, and made hearthrugs, scarcely ever wished to cross the
threshold, and only drove out with him to please him.
'However, they said very little about this mismating to any of their
acquaintances, though sometimes Steve would look at James's wife and
sigh, and James would look at Steve's wife and do the same. Indeed,
at last the two men were frank enough towards each other not to mind
mentioning it quietly to themselves, in a long-faced, sorry-smiling,
whimsical sort of way, and would shake their heads together over
their foolishness in upsetting a well-considered choice on the
strength of an hour's fancy in the whirl and wildness of a dance.
Still, they were sensible and honest young fellows enough, and did
their best to make shift with their lot as they had arranged it, and
not to repine at what could not now be altered or mended.
'So things remained till one fine summer day they went for their
yearly little outing together, as they had made it their custom to do
for a long while past. This year they chose Budmouth-Regis as the
place to spend their holiday in; and off they went in their best
clothes at nine o'clock in the morning.
'When they had reached Budmouth-Regis they walked two and two along
the shore--their new boots going squeakity-squash upon the clammy
velvet sands. I can seem to see 'em now! Then they looked at the
ships in the harbour; and then went up to the Look-out; and then had
dinner at an inn; and then again walked two and two, squeakity-
squash, upon the velvet sands. As evening drew on they sat on one of
the public seats upon the Esplanade, and listened to the band; and
then they said "What shall we do next?"
'"Of all things," said Olive (Mrs. James Hardcome, that is), "I
should like to row in the bay! We could listen to the music from the
water as well as from here, and have the fun of rowing besides."
'"The very thing; so should I," says Stephen, his tastes being always
Here the clerk turned to the curate.
'But you, sir, know the rest of the strange particulars of that
strange evening of their lives better than anybody else, having had
much of it from their own lips, which I had not; and perhaps you'll
oblige the gentleman?'
'Certainly, if it is wished,' said the curate. And he took up the
'Stephen's wife hated the sea, except from land, and couldn't bear
the thought of going into a boat. James, too, disliked the water,
and said that for his part he would much sooner stay on and listen to
the band in the seat they occupied, though he did not wish to stand
in his wife's way if she desired a row. The end of the discussion
was that James and his cousin's wife Emily agreed to remain where
they were sitting and enjoy the music, while they watched the other
two hire a boat just beneath, and take their water-excursion of half
an hour or so, till they should choose to come back and join the
sitters on the Esplanade; when they would all start homeward
'Nothing could have pleased the other two restless ones better than
this arrangement; and Emily and James watched them go down to the
boatman below and choose one of the little yellow skiffs, and walk
carefully out upon the little plank that was laid on trestles to
enable them to get alongside the craft. They saw Stephen hand Olive
in, and take his seat facing her; when they were settled they waved
their hands to the couple watching them, and then Stephen took the
pair of sculls and pulled off to the tune beat by the band, she
steering through the other boats skimming about, for the sea was as
smooth as glass that evening, and pleasure-seekers were rowing
'"How pretty they look moving on, don't they?" said Emily to James
(as I've been assured). "They both enjoy it equally. In everything
their likings are the same."
'"That's true," said James.
'"They would have made a handsome pair if they had married," said
'"Yes," said he. "'Tis a pity we should have parted 'em"
'"Don't talk of that, James," said she. "For better or for worse we
decided to do as we did, and there's an end of it."
'They sat on after that without speaking, side by side, and the band
played as before; the people strolled up and down; and Stephen and
Olive shrank smaller and smaller as they shot straight out to sea.
The two on shore used to relate how they saw Stephen stop rowing a
moment, and take off his coat to get at his work better; but James's
wife sat quite still in the stern, holding the tiller-ropes by which
she steered the boat. When they had got very small indeed she turned
her head to shore.
'"She is waving her handkerchief to us," said Stephen's wife, who
thereupon pulled out her own, and waved it as a return signal.
'The boat's course had been a little awry while Mrs. James neglected
her steering to wave her handkerchief to her husband and Mrs.
Stephen; but now the light skiff went straight onward again, and they
could soon see nothing more of the two figures it contained than
Olive's light mantle and Stephen's white shirt sleeves behind.
'The two on the shore talked on. "'Twas very curious--our changing
partners at Tony Kytes's wedding," Emily declared. "Tony was of a
fickle nature by all account, and it really seemed as if his
character had infected us that night. Which of you two was it that
first proposed not to marry as we were engaged?"
'"H'm--I can't remember at this moment," says James. "We talked it
over, you know; and no sooner said than done."
'"'Twas the dancing," said she. "People get quite crazy sometimes in
'"They do," he owned.
'"James--do you think they care for one another still?" asks Mrs.
'James Hardcome mused and admitted that perhaps a little tender
feeling might flicker up in their hearts for a moment now and then.
"Still, nothing of any account," he said.
'"I sometimes think that Olive is in Steve's mind a good deal,"
murmurs Mrs. Stephen; "particularly when she pleases his fancy by
riding past our window at a gallop on one of the draught-horses . . .
I never could do anything of that sort; I could never get over my
fear of a horse."
'"And I am no horseman, though I pretend to be on her account,"
murmured James Hardcome. "But isn't it almost time for them to turn
and sweep round to the shore, as the other boating folk have done? I
wonder what Olive means by steering away straight to the horizon like
that? She has hardly swerved from a direct line seaward since they
'"No doubt they are talking, and don't think of where they are
going," suggests Stephen's wife.
'"Perhaps so," said James. "I didn't know Steve could row like
'"O yes," says she. "He often comes here on business, and generally
has a pull round the bay."
'"I can hardly see the boat or them," says James again; "and it is
'The heedless pair afloat now formed a mere speck in the films of the
coming night, which thickened apace, till it completely swallowed up
their distant shapes. They had disappeared while still following the
same straight course away from the world of land-livers, as if they
were intending to drop over the sea-edge into space, and never return
to earth again.
'The two on the shore continued to sit on, punctually abiding by
their agreement to remain on the same spot till the others returned.
The Esplanade lamps were lit one by one, the bandsmen folded up their
stands and departed, the yachts in the bay hung out their riding
lights, and the little boats came back to shore one after another,
their hirers walking on to the sands by the plank they had climbed to
go afloat; but among these Stephen and Olive did not appear.
'"What a time they are!" said Emily. "I am getting quite chilly. I
did not expect to have to sit so long in the evening air."
'Thereupon James Hardcome said that he did not require his overcoat,
and insisted on lending it to her.
'He wrapped it round Emily's shoulders.
'"Thank you, James," she said. "How cold Olive must be in that thin
'He said he was thinking so too. "Well, they are sure to be quite
close at hand by this time, though we can't see 'em. The boats are
not all in yet. Some of the rowers are fond of paddling along the
shore to finish out their hour of hiring."
'"Shall we walk by the edge of the water," said she, "to see if we
can discover them?"
'He assented, reminding her that they must not lose sight of the
seat, lest the belated pair should return and miss them, and be vexed
that they had not kept the appointment.
'They walked a sentry beat up and down the sands immediately opposite
the seat; and still the others did not come. James Hardcome at last
went to the boatman, thinking that after all his wife and cousin
might have come in under shadow of the dusk without being perceived,
and might have forgotten the appointment at the bench.
'"All in?" asked James.
'"All but one boat," said the lessor. "I can't think where that
couple is keeping to. They might run foul of something or other in
'Again Stephen's wife and Olive's husband waited, with more and more
anxiety. But no little yellow boat returned. Was it possible they
could have landed further down the Esplanade?
'"It may have been done to escape paying," said the boat-owner. "But
they didn't look like people who would do that."
'James Hardcome knew that he could found no hope on such a reason as
that. But now, remembering what had been casually discussed between
Steve and himself about their wives from time to time, he admitted
for the first time the possibility that their old tenderness had been
revived by their face-to-face position more strongly than either had
anticipated at starting--the excursion having been so obviously
undertaken for the pleasure of the performance only,--and that they
had landed at some steps he knew of further down toward the pier, to
be longer alone together.
'Still he disliked to harbour the thought, and would not mention its
existence to his companion. He merely said to her, "Let us walk
'They did so, and lingered between the boat-stage and the pier till
Stephen Hardcome's wife was uneasy, and was obliged to accept James's
offered arm. Thus the night advanced. Emily was presently so worn
out by fatigue that James felt it necessary to conduct her home;
there was, too, a remote chance that the truants had landed in the
harbour on the other side of the town, or elsewhere, and hastened
home in some unexpected way, in the belief that their consorts would
not have waited so long.
'However, he left a direction in the town that a lookout should be
kept, though this was arranged privately, the bare possibility of an
elopement being enough to make him reticent; and, full of misgivings,
the two remaining ones hastened to catch the last train out of
Budmouth-Regis; and when they got to Casterbridge drove back to Upper
'Along this very road as we do now,' remarked the parish clerk.
'To be sure--along this very road,' said the curate. 'However,
Stephen and Olive were not at their homes; neither had entered the
village since leaving it in the morning. Emily and James Hardcome
went to their respective dwellings to snatch a hasty night's rest,
and at daylight the next morning they drove again to Casterbridge and
entered the Budmouth train, the line being just opened.
'Nothing had been heard of the couple there during this brief
absence. In the course of a few hours some young men testified to
having seen such a man and woman rowing in a frail hired craft, the
head of the boat kept straight to sea; they had sat looking in each
other's faces as if they were in a dream, with no consciousness of
what they were doing, or whither they were steering. It was not till
late that day that more tidings reached James's ears. The boat had
been found drifting bottom upward a long way from land. In the
evening the sea rose somewhat, and a cry spread through the town that
two bodies were cast ashore in Lullstead Bay, several miles to the
eastward. They were brought to Budmouth, and inspection revealed
them to be the missing pair. It was said that they had been found
tightly locked in each other's arms, his lips upon hers, their
features still wrapt in the same calm and dream-like repose which had
been observed in their demeanour as they had glided along.
'Neither James nor Emily questioned the original motives of the
unfortunate man and woman in putting to sea. They were both above
suspicion as to intention. Whatever their mutual feelings might have
led them on to, underhand behaviour was foreign to the nature of
either. Conjecture pictured that they might have fallen into tender
reverie while gazing each into a pair of eyes that had formerly
flashed for him and her alone, and, unwilling to avow what their
mutual sentiments were, they had continued thus, oblivious of time
and space, till darkness suddenly overtook them far from land. But
nothing was truly known. It had been their destiny to die thus. The
two halves, intended by Nature to make the perfect whole, had failed
in that result during their lives, though "in their death they were
not divided." Their bodies were brought home, and buried on one day.
I remember that, on looking round the churchyard while reading the
service, I observed nearly all the parish at their funeral.'
'It was so, sir,' said the clerk.
'The remaining two,' continued the curate (whose voice had grown
husky while relating the lovers' sad fate), 'were a more thoughtful
and far-seeing, though less romantic, couple than the first. They
were now mutually bereft of a companion, and found themselves by this
accident in a position to fulfil their destiny according to Nature's
plan and their own original and calmly-formed intention. James
Hardcome took Emily to wife in the course of a year and a half; and
the marriage proved in every respect a happy one. I solemnized the
service, Hardcome having told me, when he came to give notice of the
proposed wedding, the story of his first wife's loss almost word for
word as I have told it to you.'
'And are they living in Longpuddle still?' asked the new-comer.
'O no, sir,' interposed the clerk. 'James has been dead these dozen
years, and his mis'ess about six or seven. They had no children.
William Privett used to be their odd man till he died.'
'Ah--William Privett! He dead too?--dear me!' said the other. 'All
'Yes, sir. William was much older than I. He'd ha' been over eighty
if he had lived till now.'
'There was something very strange about William's death--very strange
indeed!' sighed a melancholy man in the back of the van. It was the
seedsman's father, who had hitherto kept silence.
'And what might that have been?' asked Mr. Lackland.
THE SUPERSTITIOUS MAN'S STORY
'William, as you may know, was a curious, silent man; you could feel
when he came near 'ee; and if he was in the house or anywhere behind
your back without your seeing him, there seemed to be something
clammy in the air, as if a cellar door was opened close by your
elbow. Well, one Sunday, at a time that William was in very good
health to all appearance, the bell that was ringing for church went
very heavy all of a sudden; the sexton, who told me o't, said he'd
not known the bell go so heavy in his hand for years--it was just as
if the gudgeons wanted oiling. That was on the Sunday, as I say.
During the week after, it chanced that William's wife was staying up
late one night to finish her ironing, she doing the washing for Mr.
and Mrs. Hardcome. Her husband had finished his supper and gone to
bed as usual some hour or two before. While she ironed she heard him
coming down stairs; he stopped to put on his boots at the stair-foot,
where he always left them, and then came on into the living-room
where she was ironing, passing through it towards the door, this
being the only way from the staircase to the outside of the house.
No word was said on either side, William not being a man given to
much speaking, and his wife being occupied with her work. He went
out and closed the door behind him. As her husband had now and then
gone out in this way at night before when unwell, or unable to sleep
for want of a pipe, she took no particular notice, and continued at
her ironing. This she finished shortly after, and as he had not come
in she waited awhile for him, putting away the irons and things, and
preparing the table for his breakfast in the morning. Still he did
not return, but supposing him not far off, and wanting to get to bed
herself, tired as she was, she left the door unbarred and went to the
stairs, after writing on the back of the door with chalk: MIND AND
DO THE DOOR (because he was a forgetful man).
'To her great surprise, and I might say alarm, on reaching the foot
of the stairs his boots were standing there as they always stood when
he had gone to rest; going up to their chamber she found him in bed
sleeping as sound as a rock. How he could have got back again
without her seeing or hearing him was beyond her comprehension. It
could only have been by passing behind her very quietly while she was
bumping with the iron. But this notion did not satisfy her: it was
surely impossible that she should not have seen him come in through a
room so small. She could not unravel the mystery, and felt very
queer and uncomfortable about it. However, she would not disturb him
to question him then, and went to bed herself.
'He rose and left for his work very early the next morning, before
she was awake, and she waited his return to breakfast with much
anxiety for an explanation, for thinking over the matter by daylight
made it seem only the more startling. When he came in to the meal he
said, before she could put her question, "What's the meaning of them
words chalked on the door?"
'She told him, and asked him about his going out the night before.
William declared that he had never left the bedroom after entering
it, having in fact undressed, lain down, and fallen asleep directly,
never once waking till the clock struck five, and he rose up to go to
'Betty Privett was as certain in her own mind that he did go out as
she was of her own existence, and was little less certain that he did
not return. She felt too disturbed to argue with him, and let the
subject drop as though she must have been mistaken. When she was
walking down Longpuddle street later in the day she met Jim Weedle's
daughter Nancy, and said, "Well, Nancy, you do look sleepy to-day!"
'"Yes, Mrs. Privett," says Nancy. "Now don't tell anybody, but I
don't mind letting you know what the reason o't is. Last night,
being Old Midsummer Eve, some of us went to church porch, and didn't
get home till near one."
'"Did ye?" says Mrs. Privett. "Old Midsummer yesterday was it?
Faith I didn't think whe'r 'twas Midsummer or Michaelmas; I'd too
much work to do."
'"Yes. And we were frightened enough, I can tell 'ee, by what we
'"What did ye see?"
'(You may not remember, sir, having gone off to foreign parts so
young, that on Midsummer Night it is believed hereabout that the
faint shapes of all the folk in the parish who are going to be at
death's door within the year can be seen entering the church. Those
who get over their illness come out again after a while; those that
are doomed to die do not return.)
'"What did you see?" asked William's wife.
'"Well," says Nancy, backwardly--"we needn't tell what we saw, or who
'"You saw my husband," says Betty Privett, in a quiet way.
'"Well, since you put it so," says Nancy, hanging fire, "we--thought
we did see him; but it was darkish, and we was frightened, and of
course it might not have been he."
'"Nancy, you needn't mind letting it out, though 'tis kept back in
kindness. And he didn't come out of church again: I know it as well
'Nancy did not answer yes or no to that, and no more was said. But
three days after, William Privett was mowing with John Chiles in Mr.
Hardcome's meadow, and in the heat of the day they sat down to eat
their bit o' nunch under a tree, and empty their flagon. Afterwards
both of 'em fell asleep as they sat. John Chiles was the first to
wake, and as he looked towards his fellow-mower he saw one of those
great white miller's-souls as we call 'em--that is to say, a miller-
moth--come from William's open mouth while he slept, and fly straight
away. John thought it odd enough, as William had worked in a mill
for several years when he was a boy. He then looked at the sun, and
found by the place o't that they had slept a long while, and as
William did not wake, John called to him and said it was high time to
begin work again. He took no notice, and then John went up and shook
him, and found he was dead.
'Now on that very day old Philip Hookhorn was down at Longpuddle
Spring dipping up a pitcher of water; and as he turned away, who
should he see coming down to the spring on the other side but
William, looking very pale and odd. This surprised Philip Hookhorn
very much, for years before that time William's little son--his only
child--had been drowned in that spring while at play there, and this
had so preyed upon William's mind that he'd never been seen near the
spring afterwards, and had been known to go half a mile out of his
way to avoid the place. On inquiry, it was found that William in
body could not have stood by the spring, being in the mead two miles
off; and it also came out that the time at which he was seen at the
spring was the very time when he died.'
'A rather melancholy story,' observed the emigrant, after a minute's
'Yes, yes. Well, we must take ups and downs together,' said the
'You don't know, Mr. Lackland, I suppose, what a rum start that was
between Andrey Satchel and Jane Vallens and the pa'son and clerk o'
Scrimpton?' said the master-thatcher, a man with a spark of subdued
liveliness in his eye, who had hitherto kept his attention mainly
upon small objects a long way ahead, as he sat in front of the van
with his feet outside. 'Theirs was a queerer experience of a pa'son
and clerk than some folks get, and may cheer 'ee up a little after
this dampness that's been flung over yer soul.'
The returned one replied that he knew nothing of the history, and
should be happy to hear it, quite recollecting the personality of the
'Ah no; this Andrey Satchel is the son of the Satchel that you knew;
this one has not been married more than two or three years, and 'twas
at the time o' the wedding that the accident happened that I could
tell 'ee of, or anybody else here, for that matter.'
'No, no; you must tell it, neighbour, if anybody,' said several; a
request in which Mr. Lackland joined, adding that the Satchel family
was one he had known well before leaving home.
'I'll just mention, as you be a stranger,' whispered the carrier to
Lackland, 'that Christopher's stories will bear pruning.'
The emigrant nodded.
'Well, I can soon tell it,' said the master-thatcher, schooling
himself to a tone of actuality. 'Though as it has more to do with
the pa'son and clerk than with Andrey himself, it ought to be told by
a better churchman than I.'
ANDREY SATCHEL AND THE PARSON AND CLERK
'It all arose, you must know, from Andrey being fond of a drop of
drink at that time--though he's a sober enough man now by all
account, so much the better for him. Jane, his bride, you see, was
somewhat older than Andrey; how much older I don't pretend to say;
she was not one of our parish, and the register alone may be able to
tell that. But, at any rate, her being a little ahead of her young
man in mortal years, coupled with other bodily circumstances--'
('Ah, poor thing!' sighed the women.)
'--made her very anxious to get the thing done before he changed his
mind; and 'twas with a joyful countenance (they say) that she, with
Andrey and his brother and sister-in-law, marched off to church one
November morning as soon as 'twas day a'most, to be made one with
Andrey for the rest of her life. He had left our place long before
it was light, and the folks that were up all waved their lanterns at
him, and flung up their hats as he went.
'The church of her parish was a mile and more from the houses, and,
as it was a wonderful fine day for the time of year, the plan was
that as soon as they were married they would make out a holiday by
driving straight off to Port Bredy, to see the ships and the sea and
the sojers, instead of coming back to a meal at the house of the
distant relation she lived wi', and moping about there all the
'Well, some folks noticed that Andrey walked with rather wambling
steps to church that morning; the truth o't was that his nearest
neighbour's child had been christened the day before, and Andrey,
having stood godfather, had stayed all night keeping up the
christening, for he had said to himself, "Not if I live to be
thousand shall I again be made a godfather one day, and a husband the
next, and perhaps a father the next, and therefore I'll make the most
of the blessing." So that when he started from home in the morning
he had not been in bed at all. The result was, as I say, that when
he and his bride-to-he walked up the church to get married, the
pa'son (who was a very strict man inside the church, whatever he was
outside) looked hard at Andrey, and said, very sharp:
'"How's this, my man? You are in liquor. And so early, too. I'm
ashamed of you!"
'"Well, that's true, sir," says Andrey. "But I can walk straight
enough for practical purposes. I can walk a chalk line," he says
(meaning no offence), "as well as some other folk: and--" (getting
hotter)--"I reckon that if you, Pa'son Billy Toogood, had kept up a
christening all night so thoroughly as I have done, you wouldn't be
able to stand at all; d- me if you would!"
'This answer made Pa'son Billy--as they used to call him--rather
spitish, not to say hot, for he was a warm-tempered man if provoked,
and he said, very decidedly:
'"Well, I cannot marry you in this state; and I will not! Go home
and get sober!' And he slapped the book together like a rat-trap.
'Then the bride burst out crying as if her heart would break, for
very fear that she would lose Andrey after all her hard work to get
him, and begged and implored the pa'son to go on with the ceremony.
'"I won't be a party to your solemnizing matrimony with a tipsy man,"
says Mr. Toogood. "It is not right and decent. I am sorry for you,
my young woman, but you'd better go home again. I wonder how you
could think of bringing him here drunk like this!"
'"But if--if he don't come drunk he won't come at all, sir!" she
says, through her sobs.
'"I can't help that," says the pa'son; and plead as she might, it did
not move him. Then she tried him another way.
'"Well, then, if you'll go home, sir, and leave us here, and come
back to the church in an hour or two, I'll undertake to say that he
shall be as sober as a judge," she cries. "We'll bide here, with
your permission; for if he once goes out of this here church
unmarried, all Van Amburgh's horses won't drag him back again!"
'"Very well," says the parson. "I'll give you two hours, and then
'"And please, sir, lock the door, so that we can't escape!" says she.
'"Yes," says the parson.
'"And let nobody know that we are here."
'The pa'son then took off his clane white surplice, and went away;
and the others consulted upon the best means for keeping the matter a
secret, which it was not a very hard thing to do, the place being so
lonely, and the hour so early. The witnesses, Andrey's brother and
brother's wife, neither one o' which cared about Andrey's marrying
Jane, and had come rather against their will, said they couldn't wait
two hours in that hole of a place, wishing to get home to Longpuddle
before dinner-time. They were altogether so crusty that the clerk
said there was no difficulty in their doing as they wished. They
could go home as if their brother's wedding had actually taken place
and the married couple had gone onward for their day's pleasure jaunt
to Port Bredy as intended, he, the clerk, and any casual passer-by
would act as witnesses when the pa'son came back.
'This was agreed to, and away Andrey's relations went, nothing loath,
and the clerk shut the church door and prepared to lock in the
couple. The bride went up and whispered to him, with her eyes a-
'"My dear good clerk," she says, "if we bide here in the church, folk
may see us through the winders, and find out what has happened; and
'twould cause such a talk and scandal that I never should get over
it: and perhaps, too, dear Andrey might try to get out and leave me!
Will ye lock us up in the tower, my dear good clerk?" she says.
"I'll tole him in there if you will."
'The clerk had no objection to do this to oblige the poor young
woman, and they toled Andrey into the tower, and the clerk locked 'em
both up straightway, and then went home, to return at the end of the
'Pa'son Toogood had not been long in his house after leaving the
church when he saw a gentleman in pink and top-boots ride past his
windows, and with a sudden flash of heat he called to mind that the
hounds met that day just on the edge of his parish. The pa'son was
one who dearly loved sport, and much he longed to be there.
'In short, except o' Sundays and at tide-times in the week, Pa'son
Billy was the life o' the Hunt. 'Tis true that he was poor, and that
he rode all of a heap, and that his black mare was rat-tailed and
old, and his tops older, and all over of one colour, whitey-brown,
and full o' cracks. But he'd been in at the death of three thousand
foxes. And--being a bachelor man--every time he went to bed in
summer he used to open the bed at bottom and crawl up head foremost,
to mind en of the coming winter and the good sport he'd have, and the
foxes going to earth. And whenever there was a christening at the
Squire's, and he had dinner there afterwards, as he always did, he
never failed to christen the chiel over again in a bottle of port
'Now the clerk was the parson's groom and gardener and jineral
manager, and had just got back to his work in the garden when he,
too, saw the hunting man pass, and presently saw lots more of 'em,
noblemen and gentry, and then he saw the hounds, the huntsman, Jim
Treadhedge, the whipper-in, and I don't know who besides. The clerk
loved going to cover as frantical as the pa'son, so much so that
whenever he saw or heard the pack he could no more rule his feelings
than if they were the winds of heaven. He might be bedding, or he
might be sowing--all was forgot. So he throws down his spade and
rushes in to the pa'son, who was by this time as frantical to go as
'"That there mare of yours, sir, do want exercise bad, very bad, this
morning!" the clerk says, all of a tremble. "Don't ye think I'd
better trot her round the downs for an hour, sir?"
'"To be sure, she does want exercise badly. I'll trot her round
myself," says the parson.
'"Oh--you'll trot her yerself? Well, there's the cob, sir. Really
that cob is getting oncontrollable through biding in a stable so
long! If you wouldn't mind my putting on the saddle--"
'"Very well. Take him out, certainly," says the pa'son, never caring
what the clerk did so long as he himself could get off immediately.
So, scrambling into his riding-boots and breeches as quick as he
could, he rode off towards the meet, intending to be back in an hour.
No sooner was he gone than the clerk mounted the cob, and was off
after him. When the pa'son got to the meet, he found a lot of
friends, and was as jolly as he could be: the hounds found a'most as
soon as they threw off, and there was great excitement. So,
forgetting that he had meant to go back at once, away rides the
pa'son with the rest o' the hunt, all across the fallow ground that
lies between Lippet Wood and Green's Copse; and as he galloped he
looked behind for a moment, and there was the clerk close to his
'"Ha, ha, clerk--you here?" he says.
'"Yes, sir, here be I," says t'other.
'"Fine exercise for the horses!"
'"Ay, sir--hee, hee!" says the clerk.
'So they went on and on, into Green's Copse, then across to Higher
Jirton; then on across this very turnpike-road to Climmerston Ridge,
then away towards Yalbury Wood: up hill and down dale, like the very
wind, the clerk close to the pa'son, and the pa'son not far from the
hounds. Never was there a finer run knowed with that pack than they
had that day; and neither pa'son nor clerk thought one word about the
unmarried couple locked up in the church tower waiting to get j'ined.
'"These hosses of yours, sir, will be much improved by this!" says
the clerk as he rode along, just a neck behind the pa'son. "'Twas a
happy thought of your reverent mind to bring 'em out to-day. Why, it
may be frosty in a day or two, and then the poor things mid not be
able to leave the stable for weeks."
'"They may not, they may not, it is true. A merciful man is merciful
to his beast," says the pa'son.
'"Hee, hee!" says the clerk, glancing sly into the pa'son's eye.
'"Ha, ha!" says the pa'son, a-glancing back into the clerk's.
"Halloo!" he shouts, as he sees the fox break cover at that moment.
'"Halloo!" cries the clerk. "There he goes! Why, dammy, there's two
'"Hush, clerk, hush! Don't let me hear that word again! Remember
'"True, sir, true. But really, good sport do carry away a man so,
that he's apt to forget his high persuasion!" And the next minute
the corner of the clerk's eye shot again into the corner of the
pa'son's, and the pa'son's back again to the clerk's. "Hee, hee!"
said the clerk.
'"Ha, ha!" said Pa'son Toogood.
'"Ah, sir," says the clerk again, "this is better than crying Amen to
your Ever-and-ever on a winter's morning!"
'"Yes, indeed, clerk! To everything there's a season," says Pa'son
Toogood, quite pat, for he was a learned Christian man when he liked,
and had chapter and ve'se at his tongue's end, as a pa'son should.
'At last, late in the day, the hunting came to an end by the fox
running into a' old woman's cottage, under her table, and up the
clock-case. The pa'son and clerk were among the first in at the
death, their faces a-staring in at the old woman's winder, and the
clock striking as he'd never been heard to strik' before. Then came
the question of finding their way home.
'Neither the pa'son nor the clerk knowed how they were going to do
this, for their beasts were wellnigh tired down to the ground. But
they started back-along as well as they could, though they were so
done up that they could only drag along at a' amble, and not much of
that at a time.
'"We shall never, never get there!" groaned Mr. Toogood, quite bowed
'"Never!" groans the clerk. "'Tis a judgment upon us for our
'"I fear it is," murmurs the pa'son.
'Well, 'twas quite dark afore they entered the pa'sonage gate, having
crept into the parish as quiet as if they'd stole a hammer, little
wishing their congregation to know what they'd been up to all day
long. And as they were so dog-tired, and so anxious about the
horses, never once did they think of the unmarried couple. As soon
as ever the horses had been stabled and fed, and the pa'son and clerk
had had a bit and a sup theirselves, they went to bed.
'Next morning when Pa'son Toogood was at breakfast, thinking of the
glorious sport he'd had the day before, the clerk came in a hurry to
the door and asked to see him.
'"It has just come into my mind, sir, that we've forgot all about the
couple that we was to have married yesterday!"
'The half-chawed victuals dropped from the pa'son's mouth as if he'd
been shot. "Bless my soul," says he, "so we have! How very
'"It is, sir; very. Perhaps we've ruined the 'ooman!"
'"Ah--to be sure--I remember! She ought to have been married
'"If anything has happened to her up in that there tower, and no
doctor or nuss--"
('Ah--poor thing!' sighed the women.)
'"--'twill be a quarter-sessions matter for us, not to speak of the
disgrace to the Church!"
'"Good God, clerk, don't drive me wild!" says the pa'son. "Why the
hell didn't I marry 'em, drunk or sober!" (Pa'sons used to cuss in
them days like plain honest men.) "Have you been to the church to
see what happened to them, or inquired in the village?"
'"Not I, sir! It only came into my head a moment ago, and I always
like to be second to you in church matters. You could have knocked
me down with a sparrer's feather when I thought o't, sir; I assure
'ee you could!"
'Well, the parson jumped up from his breakfast, and together they
went off to the church.
'"It is not at all likely that they are there now," says Mr. Toogood,
as they went; "and indeed I hope they are not. They be pretty sure
to have 'scaped and gone home."
'However, they opened the church-hatch, entered the churchyard, and
looking up at the tower, there they seed a little small white face at
the belfry-winder, and a little small hand waving. 'Twas the bride.
'"God my life, clerk," says Mr. Toogood, "I don't know how to face
'em!" And he sank down upon a tombstone. "How I wish I hadn't been
so cussed particular!"
'"Yes--'twas a pity we didn't finish it when we'd begun," the clerk
said. "Still, since the feelings of your holy priestcraft wouldn't
let ye, the couple must put up with it."
'"True, clerk, true! Does she look as if anything premature had took
'"I can't see her no lower down than her arm-pits, sir."
'"Well--how do her face look?"
'"It do look mighty white!"
'"Well, we must know the worst! Dear me, how the small of my back do
ache from that ride yesterday! . . . But to more godly business!"
'They went on into the church, and unlocked the tower stairs, and
immediately poor Jane and Andrey busted out like starved mice from a
cupboard, Andrey limp and sober enough now, and his bride pale and
cold, but otherwise as usual.
'"What," says the pa'son, with a great breath of relief, "you haven't
been here ever since?"
'"Yes, we have, sir!" says the bride, sinking down upon a seat in her
weakness. "Not a morsel, wet or dry, have we had since! It was
impossible to get out without help, and here we've stayed!"
'"But why didn't you shout, good souls?" said the pa'son.
'"She wouldn't let me," says Andrey.
'"Because we were so ashamed at what had led to it," sobs Jane. "We
felt that if it were noised abroad it would cling to us all our
lives! Once or twice Andrey had a good mind to toll the bell, but
then he said: "No; I'll starve first. I won't bring disgrace on my
name and yours, my dear." And so we waited and waited, and walked
round and round; but never did you come till now!"
'"To my regret!" says the parson. "Now, then, we will soon get it
'"I--I should like some victuals," said Andrey, "'twould gie me
courage if it is only a crust o' bread and a' onion; for I am that
leery that I can feel my stomach rubbing against my backbone."
'"I think we had better get it done," said the bride, a bit anxious
in manner; "since we are all here convenient, too!"
'Andrey gave way about the victuals, and the clerk called in a second
witness who wouldn't be likely to gossip about it, and soon the knot
was tied, and the bride looked smiling and calm forthwith, and Andrey
limper than ever.
'"Now," said Pa'son Toogood, "you two must come to my house, and have
a good lining put to your insides before you go a step further."
'They were very glad of the offer, and went out of the churchyard by
one path while the pa'son and clerk went out by the other, and so did
not attract notice, it being still early. They entered the rectory
as if they'd just come back from their trip to Port Bredy; and then
they knocked in the victuals and drink till they could hold no more.
'It was a long while before the story of what they had gone through
was known, but it was talked of in time, and they themselves laugh
over it now; though what Jane got for her pains was no great bargain
after all. 'Tis true she saved her name.'
'Was that the same Andrey who went to the squire's house as one of
the Christmas fiddlers?' asked the seedsman.
'No, no,' replied Mr. Profitt, the schoolmaster. 'It was his father
did that. Ay, it was all owing to his being such a man for eating
and drinking.' Finding that he had the ear of the audience, the
schoolmaster continued without delay:-
OLD ANDREY'S EXPERIENCE AS A MUSICIAN
'I was one of the choir-boys at that time, and we and the players
were to appear at the manor-house as usual that Christmas week, to
play and sing in the hall to the squire's people and visitors (among
'em being the archdeacon, Lord and Lady Baxby, and I don't know who);
afterwards going, as we always did, to have a good supper in the
servants' hall. Andrew knew this was the custom, and meeting us when
we were starting to go, he said to us: "Lord, how I should like to
join in that meal of beef, and turkey, and plum-pudding, and ale,
that you happy ones be going to just now! One more or less will make
no difference to the squire. I am too old to pass as a singing boy,
and too bearded to pass as a singing girl; can ye lend me a fiddle,
neighbours, that I may come with ye as a bandsman?"
'Well, we didn't like to be hard upon him, and lent him an old one,
though Andrew knew no more of music than the Cerne Giant; and armed
with the instrument he walked up to the squire's house with the
others of us at the time appointed, and went in boldly, his fiddle
under his arm. He made himself as natural as he could in opening the
music-books and moving the candles to the best points for throwing
light upon the notes; and all went well till we had played and sung
"While shepherds watch," and "Star, arise," and "Hark the glad
sound." Then the squire's mother, a tall gruff old lady, who was
much interested in church-music, said quite unexpectedly to Andrew:
"My man, I see you don't play your instrument with the rest. How is
'Every one of the choir was ready to sink into the earth with concern
at the fix Andrew was in. We could see that he had fallen into a
cold sweat, and how he would get out of it we did not know.
'"I've had a misfortune, mem," he says, bowing as meek as a child.
"Coming along the road I fell down and broke my bow."
'"Oh, I am sorry to hear that," says she. "Can't it be mended?"
'"Oh no, mem," says Andrew. "'Twas broke all to splinters."
'"I'll see what I can do for you," says she.
'And then it seemed all over, and we played "Rejoice, ye drowsy
mortals all," in D and two sharps. But no sooner had we got through
it than she says to Andrew,
'"I've sent up into the attic, where we have some old musical
instruments, and found a bow for you." And she hands the bow to poor
wretched Andrew, who didn't even know which end to take hold of.
"Now we shall have the full accompaniment," says she.
'Andrew's face looked as if it were made of rotten apple as he stood
in the circle of players in front of his book; for if there was one
person in the parish that everybody was afraid of, 'twas this hook-
nosed old lady. However, by keeping a little behind the next man he
managed to make pretence of beginning, sawing away with his bow
without letting it touch the strings, so that it looked as if he were
driving into the tune with heart and soul. 'Tis a question if he
wouldn't have got through all right if one of the squire's visitors
(no other than the archdeacon) hadn't noticed that he held the fiddle
upside down, the nut under his chin, and the tail-piece in his hand;
and they began to crowd round him, thinking 'twas some new way of
'This revealed everything; the squire's mother had Andrew turned out
of the house as a vile impostor, and there was great interruption to
the harmony of the proceedings, the squire declaring he should have
notice to leave his cottage that day fortnight. However, when we got
to the servants' hall there sat Andrew, who had been let in at the
back door by the orders of the squire's wife, after being turned out
at the front by the orders of the squire, and nothing more was heard
about his leaving his cottage. But Andrew never performed in public
as a musician after that night; and now he's dead and gone, poor man,
as we all shall be!'
'I had quite forgotten the old choir, with their fiddles and bass-
viols,' said the home-comer, musingly. 'Are they still going on the
same as of old?'
'Bless the man!' said Christopher Twink, the master-thatcher; 'why,
they've been done away with these twenty year. A young teetotaler
plays the organ in church now, and plays it very well; though 'tis
not quite such good music as in old times, because the organ is one
of them that go with a winch, and the young teetotaler says he can't
always throw the proper feeling into the tune without wellnigh
working his arms off.'
'Why did they make the change, then?'
'Well, partly because of fashion, partly because the old musicians
got into a sort of scrape. A terrible scrape 'twas too--wasn't it,
John? I shall never forget it--never! They lost their character as
officers of the church as complete as if they'd never had any
character at all.'
'That was very bad for them.'
'Yes.' The master-thatcher attentively regarded past times as if
they lay about a mile off, and went on:-
ABSENT-MINDEDNESS IN A PARISH CHOIR
'It happened on Sunday after Christmas--the last Sunday ever they
played in Longpuddle church gallery, as it turned out, though they
didn't know it then. As you may know, sir, the players formed a very
good band--almost as good as the Mellstock parish players that were
led by the Dewys; and that's saying a great deal. There was Nicholas
Puddingcome, the leader, with the first fiddle; there was Timothy
Thomas, the bass-viol man; John Biles, the tenor fiddler; Dan'l
Hornhead, with the serpent; Robert Dowdle, with the clarionet; and
Mr. Nicks, with the oboe--all sound and powerful musicians, and
strong-winded men--they that blowed. For that reason they were very
much in demand Christmas week for little reels and dancing parties;
for they could turn a jig or a hornpipe out of hand as well as ever
they could turn out a psalm, and perhaps better, not to speak
irreverent. In short, one half-hour they could be playing a
Christmas carol in the squire's hall to the ladies and gentlemen, and
drinking tay and coffee with 'em as modest as saints; and the next,
at The Tinker's Arms, blazing away like wild horses with the "Dashing
White Sergeant" to nine couple of dancers and more, and swallowing
rum-and-cider hot as flame.
'Well, this Christmas they'd been out to one rattling randy after
another every night, and had got next to no sleep at all. Then came
the Sunday after Christmas, their fatal day. 'Twas so mortal cold
that year that they could hardly sit in the gallery; for though the
congregation down in the body of the church had a stove to keep off
the frost, the players in the gallery had nothing at all. So
Nicholas said at morning service, when 'twas freezing an inch an
hour, "Please the Lord I won't stand this numbing weather no longer:
this afternoon we'll have something in our insides to make us warm,
if it cost a king's ransom."
'So he brought a gallon of hot brandy and beer, ready mixed, to
church with him in the afternoon, and by keeping the jar well wrapped
up in Timothy Thomas's bass-viol bag it kept drinkably warm till they
wanted it, which was just a thimbleful in the Absolution, and another
after the Creed, and the remainder at the beginning o' the sermon.
When they'd had the last pull they felt quite comfortable and warm,
and as the sermon went on--most unfortunately for 'em it was a long
one that afternoon--they fell asleep, every man jack of 'em; and
there they slept on as sound as rocks.
"Twas a very dark afternoon, and by the end of the sermon all you
could see of the inside of the church were the pa'son's two candles
alongside of him in the pulpit, and his spaking face behind 'em. The
sermon being ended at last, the pa'son gie'd out the Evening Hymn.
But no choir set about sounding up the tune, and the people began to
turn their heads to learn the reason why, and then Levi Limpet, a boy
who sat in the gallery, nudged Timothy and Nicholas, and said,
'"Hey? what?" says Nicholas, starting up; and the church being so
dark and his head so muddled he thought he was at the party they had
played at all the night before, and away he went, bow and fiddle, at
"The Devil among the Tailors," the favourite jig of our neighbourhood
at that time. The rest of the band, being in the same state of mind
and nothing doubting, followed their leader with all their strength,
according to custom. They poured out that there tune till the lower
bass notes of "The Devil among the Tailors" made the cobwebs in the
roof shiver like ghosts; then Nicholas, seeing nobody moved, shouted
out as he scraped (in his usual commanding way at dances when the
folk didn't know the figures), "Top couples cross hands! And when I
make the fiddle squeak at the end, every man kiss his pardner under
'The boy Levi was so frightened that he bolted down the gallery
stairs and out homeward like lightning. The pa'son's hair fairly
stood on end when he heard the evil tune raging through the church,
and thinking the choir had gone crazy he held up his hand and said:
"Stop, stop, stop! Stop, stop! What's this?" But they didn't hear
'n for the noise of their own playing, and the more he called the
louder they played.
'Then the folks came out of their pews, wondering down to the ground,
and saying: "What do they mean by such wickedness! We shall be
consumed like Sodom and Gomorrah!"
'Then the squire came out of his pew lined wi' green baize, where
lots of lords and ladies visiting at the house were worshipping along
with him, and went and stood in front of the gallery, and shook his
fist in the musicians' faces, saying, "What! In this reverent
'And at last they heard 'n through their playing, and stopped.
'"Never such an insulting, disgraceful thing--never!" says the
squire, who couldn't rule his passion.
'"Never!" says the pa'son, who had come down and stood beside him.
'"Not if the Angels of Heaven," says the squire (he was a wickedish
man, the squire was, though now for once he happened to be on the
Lord's side)--"not if the Angels of Heaven come down," he says,
"shall one of you villanous players ever sound a note in this church
again; for the insult to me, and my family, and my visitors, and God
Almighty, that you've a-perpetrated this afternoon!"
'Then the unfortunate church band came to their senses, and
remembered where they were; and 'twas a sight to see Nicholas Pudding
come and Timothy Thomas and John Biles creep down the gallery stairs
with their fiddles under their arms, and poor Dan'l Hornhead with his
serpent, and Robert Dowdle with his clarionet, all looking as little
as ninepins; and out they went. The pa'son might have forgi'ed 'em
when he learned the truth o't, but the squire would not. That very
week he sent for a barrel-organ that would play two-and-twenty new
psalm-tunes, so exact and particular that, however sinful inclined
you was, you could play nothing but psalm-tunes whatsomever. He had
a really respectable man to turn the winch, as I said, and the old
players played no more.'
'And, of course, my old acquaintance, the annuitant, Mrs. Winter, who
always seemed to have something on her mind, is dead and gone?' said
the home-comer, after a long silence.
Nobody in the van seemed to recollect the name.
'O yes, she must be dead long since: she was seventy when I as a
child knew her,' he added.
'I can recollect Mrs. Winter very well, if nobody else can,' said the
aged groceress. 'Yes, she's been dead these five-and-twenty year at
least. You knew what it was upon her mind, sir, that gave her that
hollow-eyed look, I suppose?'
'It had something to do with a son of hers, I think I once was told.
But I was too young to know particulars.'
The groceress sighed as she conjured up a vision of days long past.
'Yes,' she murmured, 'it had all to do with a son.' Finding that the
van was still in a listening mood, she spoke on:-
THE WINTERS AND THE PALMLEYS
'To go back to the beginning--if one must--there were two women in
the parish when I was a child, who were to a certain extent rivals in
good looks. Never mind particulars, but in consequence of this they
were at daggers-drawn, and they did not love each other any better
when one of them tempted the other's lover away from her and married
him. He was a young man of the name of Winter, and in due time they
had a son.
'The other woman did not marry for many years: but when she was
about thirty a quiet man named Palmley asked her to be his wife, and
she accepted him. You don't mind when the Palmleys were Longpuddle
folk, but I do well. She had a son also, who was, of course, nine or
ten years younger than the son of the first. The child proved to be
of rather weak intellect, though his mother loved him as the apple of
'This woman's husband died when the child was eight years old, and
left his widow and boy in poverty. Her former rival, also a widow
now, but fairly well provided for, offered for pity's sake to take
the child as errand-boy, small as he was, her own son, Jack, being
hard upon seventeen. Her poor neighbour could do no better than let
the child go there. And to the richer woman's house little Palmley
'Well, in some way or other--how, it was never exactly known--the
thriving woman, Mrs. Winter, sent the little boy with a message to
the next village one December day, much against his will. It was
getting dark, and the child prayed to be allowed not to go, because
he would be afraid coming home. But the mistress insisted, more out
Back to Full Books