Under the Greenwood Tree
Thomas Hardy

Part 2 out of 4

the sharpness that her position as village sharpener demanded, to
the contrast between the rattle of knives and forks and the late
notes of the fiddlers.

"Ay; and I don't know but what 'tis sweeter in tone when you get
above forty," said the tranter; "except, in faith, as regards father
there. Never such a mortal man as he for tunes. They do move his
soul; don't 'em, father?"

The eldest Dewy smiled across from his distant chair an assent to
Reuben's remark.

"Spaking of being moved in soul," said Mr. Penny, "I shall never
forget the first time I heard the "Dead March." 'Twas at poor
Corp'l Nineman's funeral at Casterbridge. It fairly made my hair
creep and fidget about like a vlock of sheep--ah, it did, souls!
And when they had done, and the last trump had sounded, and the guns
was fired over the dead hero's grave, a' icy-cold drop o' moist
sweat hung upon my forehead, and another upon my jawbone. Ah, 'tis
a very solemn thing!"

"Well, as to father in the corner there," the tranter said, pointing
to old William, who was in the act of filling his mouth; "he'd
starve to death for music's sake now, as much as when he was a boy-
chap of fifteen."

"Truly, now," said Michael Mail, clearing the corner of his throat
in the manner of a man who meant to be convincing; 'there's a
friendly tie of some sort between music and eating." He lifted the
cup to his mouth, and drank himself gradually backwards from a
perpendicular position to a slanting one, during which time his
looks performed a circuit from the wall opposite him to the ceiling
overhead. Then clearing the other corner of his throat: 'Once I
was a-setting in the little kitchen of the Dree Mariners at
Casterbridge, having a bit of dinner, and a brass band struck up in
the street. Such a beautiful band as that were! I was setting
eating fried liver and lights, I well can mind--ah, I was! and to
save my life, I couldn't help chawing to the tune. Band played six-
eight time; six-eight chaws I, willynilly. Band plays common;
common time went my teeth among the liver and lights as true as a
hair. Beautiful 'twere! Ah, I shall never forget that there band!"

"That's as tuneful a thing as ever I heard of," said grandfather
James, with the absent gaze which accompanies profound criticism.

"I don't like Michael's tuneful stories then," said Mrs. Dewy.
"They are quite coarse to a person o' decent taste."

Old Michael's mouth twitched here and there, as if he wanted to
smile but didn't know where to begin, which gradually settled to an
expression that it was not displeasing for a nice woman like the
tranter's wife to correct him.

"Well, now," said Reuben, with decisive earnestness, "that sort o'
coarse touch that's so upsetting to Ann's feelings is to my mind a
recommendation; for it do always prove a story to be true. And for
the same reason, I like a story with a bad moral. My sonnies, all
true stories have a coarse touch or a bad moral, depend upon't. If
the story-tellers could ha' got decency and good morals from true
stories, who'd ha' troubled to invent parables?" Saying this the
tranter arose to fetch a new stock of cider, ale, mead, and home-
made wines.

Mrs. Dewy sighed, and appended a remark (ostensibly behind her
husband's back, though that the words should reach his ears
distinctly was understood by both): "Such a man as Dewy is! Nobody
do know the trouble I have to keep that man barely respectable. And
did you ever hear too--just now at supper-time--talking about
"taties" with Michael in such a work-folk way. Well, 'tis what I
was never brought up to! With our family 'twas never less than
"taters," and very often "pertatoes" outright; mother was so
particular and nice with us girls there was no family in the parish
that kept them selves up more than we."

The hour of parting came. Fancy could not remain for the night,
because she had engaged a woman to wait up for her. She disappeared
temporarily from the flagging party of dancers, and then came
downstairs wrapped up and looking altogether a different person from
whom she had been hitherto, in fact (to Dick's sadness and
disappointment), a woman somewhat reserved and of a phlegmatic
temperament--nothing left in her of the romping girl that she had
seemed but a short quarter-hour before, who had not minded the
weight of Dick's hand upon her waist, nor shirked the purlieus of
the mistletoe.

"What a difference!" thought the young man--hoary cynic pro tem.
"What a miserable deceiving difference between the manners of a
maid's life at dancing times and at others! Look at this lovely
Fancy! Through the whole past evening touchable, squeezeable--even
kissable! For whole half-hours I held her so chose to me that not a
sheet of paper could have been shipped between us; and I could feel
her heart only just outside my own, her life beating on so close to
mine, that I was aware of every breath in it. A flit is made
upstairs--a hat and a cloak put on--and I no more dare to touch her
than--" Thought failed him, and he returned to realities.

But this was an endurable misery in comparison with what followed.
Mr. Shiner and his watch-chain, taking the intrusive advantage that
ardent bachelors who are going homeward along the same road as a
pretty young woman always do take of that circumstance, came forward
to assure Fancy--with a total disregard of Dick's emotions, and in
tones which were certainly not frigid--that he (Shiner) was not the
man to go to bed before seeing his Lady Fair safe within her own
door--not he, nobody should say he was that;--and that he would not
leave her side an inch till the thing was done--drown him if he
would. The proposal was assented to by Miss Day, in Dick's
foreboding judgment, with one degree--or at any rate, an appreciable
fraction of a degree--of warmth beyond that required by a
disinterested desire for protection from the dangers of the night.

All was over; and Dick surveyed the chair she had last occupied,
looking now like a setting from which the gem has been torn. There
stood her glass, and the romantic teaspoonful of elder wine at the
bottom that she couldn't drink by trying ever so hard, in obedience
to the mighty arguments of the tranter (his hand coming down upon
her shoulder the while, like a Nasmyth hammer); but the drinker was
there no longer. There were the nine or ten pretty little crumbs
she had left on her plate; but the eater was no more seen.

There seemed a disagreeable closeness of relationship between
himself and the members of his family, now that they were left alone
again face to face. His father seemed quite offensive for appearing
to be in just as high spirits as when the guests were there; and as
for grandfather James (who had not yet left), he was quite fiendish
in being rather glad they were gone.

"Really," said the tranter, in a tone of placid satisfaction, "I've
had so little time to attend to myself all the evenen, that I mean
to enjoy a quiet meal now! A slice of this here ham--neither too
fat nor too lean--so; and then a drop of this vinegar and pickles--
there, that's it--and I shall be as fresh as a lark again! And to
tell the truth, my sonny, my inside has been as dry as a lime-basket
all night."

"I like a party very well once in a while," said Mrs. Dewy, leaving
off the adorned tones she had been bound to use throughout the
evening, and returning to the natural marriage voice; "but, Lord,
'tis such a sight of heavy work next day! What with the dirty
plates, and knives and forks, and dust and smother, and bits kicked
off your furniture, and I don't know what all, why a body could
a'most wish there were no such things as Christmases . . . Ah-h
dear!" she yawned, till the clock in the corner had ticked several
beats. She cast her eyes round upon the displaced, dust-laden
furniture, and sank down overpowered at the sight.

"Well, I be getting all right by degrees, thank the Lord for't!"
said the tranter cheerfully through a mangled mass of ham and bread,
without lifting his eyes from his plate, and chopping away with his
knife and fork as if he were felling trees. "Ann, you may as well
go on to bed at once, and not bide there making such sleepy faces;
you look as long-favoured as a fiddle, upon my life, Ann. There,
you must be wearied out, 'tis true. I'll do the doors and draw up
the clock; and you go on, or you'll be as white as a sheet to-

"Ay; I don't know whether I shan't or no." The matron passed her
hand across her eyes to brush away the film of sleep till she got

Dick wondered how it was that when people were married they could be
so blind to romance; and was quite certain that if he ever took to
wife that dear impossible Fancy, he and she would never be so
dreadfully practical and undemonstrative of the Passion as his
father and mother were. The most extraordinary thing was, that all
the fathers and mothers he knew were just as undemonstrative as his


The early days of the year drew on, and Fancy, having spent the
holiday weeks at home, returned again to Mellstock.

Every spare minute of the week following her return was used by Dick
in accidentally passing the schoolhouse in his journeys about the
neighbourhood; but not once did she make herself visible. A
handkerchief belonging to her had been providentially found by his
mother in clearing the rooms the day after that of the dance; and by
much contrivance Dick got it handed over to him, to leave with her
at any time he should be near the school after her return. But he
delayed taking the extreme measure of calling with it lest, had she
really no sentiment of interest in him, it might be regarded as a
slightly absurd errand, the reason guessed; and the sense of the
ludicrous, which was rather keen in her, do his dignity considerable
injury in her eyes; and what she thought of him, even apart from the
question of her loving, was all the world to him now.

But the hour came when the patience of love at twenty-one could
endure no longer. One Saturday he approached the school with a mild
air of indifference, and had the satisfaction of seeing the object
of his quest at the further end of her garden, trying, by the aid of
a spade and gloves, to root a bramble that had intruded itself

He disguised his feelings from some suspicious-looking cottage-
windows opposite by endeavouring to appear like a man in a great
hurry of business, who wished to leave the handkerchief and have
done with such trifling errands.

This endeavour signally failed; for on approaching the gate he found
it locked to keep the children, who were playing 'cross-dadder' in
the front, from running into her private grounds.

She did not see him; and he could only think of one thing to be
done, which was to shout her name.

"Miss Day!"

The words were uttered with a jerk and a look meant to imply to the
cottages opposite that he was now simply one who liked shouting as a
pleasant way of passing his time, without any reference to persons
in gardens. The name died away, and the unconscious Miss Day
continued digging and pulling as before.

He screwed himself up to enduring the cottage-windows yet more
stoically, and shouted again. Fancy took no notice whatever.

He shouted the third time, with desperate vehemence, turning
suddenly about and retiring a little distance, as if it were by no
means for his own pleasure that he had come.

This time she heard him, came down the garden, and entered the
school at the back. Footsteps echoed across the interior, the door
opened, and three-quarters of the blooming young schoolmistress's
face and figure stood revealed before him; a slice on her left-hand
side being cut off by the edge of the door. Having surveyed and
recognized him, she came to the gate.

At sight of him had the pink of her cheeks increased, lessened, or
did it continue to cover its normal area of ground? It was a
question meditated several hundreds of times by her visitor in
after-hours--the meditation, after wearying involutions, always
ending in one way, that it was impossible to say.

"Your handkerchief: Miss Day: I called with." He held it out
spasmodically and awkwardly. "Mother found it: under a chair."

"O, thank you very much for bringing it, Mr. Dewy. I couldn't think
where I had dropped it."

Now Dick, not being an experienced lover--indeed, never before
having been engaged in the practice of love-making at all, except in
a small schoolboy way--could not take advantage of the situation;
and out came the blunder, which afterwards cost him so many bitter
moments and a sleepless night:-

"Good morning, Miss Day."

"Good morning, Mr. Dewy."

The gate was closed; she was gone; and Dick was standing outside,
unchanged in his condition from what he had been before he called.
Of course the Angel was not to blame--a young woman living alone in
a house could not ask him indoors unless she had known him better--
he should have kept her outside before floundering into that fatal
farewell. He wished that before he called he had realized more
fully than he did the pleasure of being about to call; and turned



It followed that, as the spring advanced, Dick walked abroad much
more frequently than had hitherto been usual with him, and was
continually finding that his nearest way to or from home lay by the
road which skirted the garden of the school. The first-fruits of
his perseverance were that, on turning the angle on the nineteenth
journey by that track, he saw Miss Fancy's figure, clothed in a
dark-gray dress, looking from a high open window upon the crown of
his hat. The friendly greeting resulting from this rencounter was
considered so valuable an elixir that Dick passed still oftener; and
by the time he had almost trodden a little path under the fence
where never a path was before, he was rewarded with an actual
meeting face to face on the open road before her gate. This brought
another meeting, and another, Fancy faintly showing by her bearing
that it was a pleasure to her of some kind to see him there but the
sort of pleasure she derived, whether exultation at the hope her
exceeding fairness inspired, or the true feeling which was alone
Dick's concern, he could not anyhow decide, although he meditated on
her every little movement for hours after it was made.


It was the evening of a fine spring day. The descending sun
appeared as a nebulous blaze of amber light, its outline being lost
in cloudy masses hanging round it, like wild locks of hair.

The chief members of Mellstock parish choir were standing in a group
in front of Mr. Penny's workshop in the lower village. They were
all brightly illuminated, and each was backed up by a shadow as long
as a steeple the lowness of the source of light rendering the brims
of their hats of no use at all as a protection to the eyes.

Mr. Penny's was the last house in that part of the parish, and stood
in a hollow by the roadside so that cart-wheels and horses' legs
were about level with the sill of his shop-window. This was low and
wide, and was open from morning till evening, Mr. Penny himself
being invariably seen working inside, like a framed portrait of a
shoemaker by some modern Moroni. He sat facing the road, with a
boot on his knees and the awl in his hand, only looking up for a
moment as he stretched out his arms and bent forward at the pull,
when his spectacles flashed in the passer's face with a shine of
flat whiteness, and then returned again to the boot as usual. Rows
of lasts, small and large, stout and slender, covered the wall which
formed the background, in the extreme shadow of which a kind of
dummy was seen sitting, in the shape of an apprentice with a string
tied round his hair (probably to keep it out of his eyes). He
smiled at remarks that floated in from without, but was never known
to answer them in Mr. Penny's presence. Outside the window the
upper-leather of a Wellington-boot was usually hung, pegged to a
board as if to dry. No sign was over his door; in fact--as with old
banks and mercantile houses--advertising in any shape was scorned,
and it would have been felt as beneath his dignity to paint up, for
the benefit of strangers, the name of an establishment whose trade
came solely by connection based on personal respect.

His visitors now came and stood on the outside of his window,
sometimes leaning against the sill, sometimes moving a pace or two
backwards and forwards in front of it. They talked with deliberate
gesticulations to Mr. Penny, enthroned in the shadow of the

"I do like a man to stick to men who be in the same line o' life--o'
Sundays, anyway--that I do so."

"'Tis like all the doings of folk who don't know what a day's work
is, that's what I say."

"My belief is the man's not to blame; 'tis SHE--she's the bitter

"No, not altogether. He's a poor gawk-hammer. Look at his sermon

"His sermon was well enough, a very good guessable sermon, only he
couldn't put it into words and speak it. That's all was the matter
wi' the sermon. He hadn't been able to get it past his pen."

"Well--ay, the sermon might have been good; for, 'tis true, the
sermon of Old Eccl'iastes himself lay in Eccl'iastes's ink-bottle
afore he got it out."

Mr. Penny, being in the act of drawing the last stitch tight, could
afford time to look up and throw in a word at this point.

"He's no spouter--that must be said, 'a b'lieve."

"'Tis a terrible muddle sometimes with the man, as far as spout do
go," said Spinks.

"Well, we'll say nothing about that," the tranter answered; "for I
don't believe 'twill make a penneth o' difference to we poor martels
here or hereafter whether his sermons be good or bad, my sonnies."

Mr. Penny made another hole with his awl, pushed in the thread, and
looked up and spoke again at the extension of arms.

"'Tis his goings-on, souls, that's what it is." He clenched his
features for an Herculean addition to the ordinary pull, and
continued, "The first thing he done when he came here was to be hot
and strong about church business."

"True," said Spinks; "that was the very first thing he done."

Mr. Penny, having now been offered the ear of the assembly, accepted
it, ceased stitching, swallowed an unimportant quantity of air as if
it were a pill, and continued:

"The next thing he do do is to think about altering the church,
until he found 'twould be a matter o' cost and what not, and then
not to think no more about it."

"True: that was the next thing he done."

"And the next thing was to tell the young chaps that they were not
on no account to put their hats in the christening font during


"And then 'twas this, and then 'twas that, and now 'tis--"

Words were not forcible enough to conclude the sentence, and Mr.
Penny gave a huge pull to signify the concluding word.

"Now 'tis to turn us out of the quire neck and crop," said the
tranter after an interval of half a minute, not by way of explaining
the pause and pull, which had been quite understood, but as a means
of keeping the subject well before the meeting.

Mrs. Penny came to the door at this point in the discussion. Like
all good wives, however much she was inclined to play the Tory to
her husband's Whiggism, and vice versa, in times of peace, she
coalesced with him heartily enough in time of war.

"It must be owned he's not all there," she replied in a general way
to the fragments of talk she had heard from indoors. "Far below
poor Mr. Grinham" (the late vicar).

"Ay, there was this to be said for he, that you were quite sure he'd
never come mumbudgeting to see ye, just as you were in the middle of
your work, and put you out with his fuss and trouble about ye."

"Never. But as for this new Mr. Maybold, though he mid be a very
well-intending party in that respect, he's unbearable; for as to
sifting your cinders, scrubbing your floors, or emptying your slops,
why, you can't do it. I assure you I've not been able to empt them
for several days, unless I throw 'em up the chimley or out of
winder; for as sure as the sun you meet him at the door, coming to
ask how you are, and 'tis such a confusing thing to meet a gentleman
at the door when ye are in the mess o' washing."

"'Tis only for want of knowing better, poor gentleman," said the
tranter. "His meaning's good enough. Ay, your pa'son comes by
fate: 'tis heads or tails, like pitch-halfpenny, and no choosing;
so we must take en as he is, my sonnies, and thank God he's no
worse, I suppose."

"I fancy I've seen him look across at Miss Day in a warmer way than
Christianity asked for," said Mrs. Penny musingly; "but I don't
quite like to say it."

"O no; there's nothing in that," said grandfather William.

"If there's nothing, we shall see nothing," Mrs. Penny replied, in
the tone of a woman who might possibly have private opinions still.

"Ah, Mr. Grinham was the man!" said Bowman. "Why, he never troubled
us wi' a visit from year's end to year's end. You might go
anywhere, do anything: you'd be sure never to see him."

"Yes, he was a right sensible pa'son," said Michael. "He never
entered our door but once in his life, and that was to tell my poor
wife--ay, poor soul, dead and gone now, as we all shall I--that as
she was such a' old aged person, and lived so far from the church,
he didn't at all expect her to come any more to the service."

"And 'a was a very jinerous gentleman about choosing the psalms and
hymns o' Sundays. 'Confound ye,' says he, 'blare and scrape what ye
will, but don't bother me!'"

"And he was a very honourable man in not wanting any of us to come
and hear him if we were all on-end for a jaunt or spree, or to bring
the babies to be christened if they were inclined to squalling.
There's good in a man's not putting a parish to unnecessary

"And there's this here man never letting us have a bit o' peace; but
keeping on about being good and upright till 'tis carried to such a
pitch as I never see the like afore nor since!"

"No sooner had he got here than he found the font wouldn't hold
water, as it hadn't for years off and on; and when I told him that
Mr. Grinham never minded it, but used to spet upon his vinger and
christen 'em just as well, 'a said, 'Good Heavens! Send for a
workman immediate. What place have I come to!' Which was no
compliment to us, come to that."

"Still, for my part," said old William, "though he's arrayed against
us, I like the hearty borussnorus ways of the new pa'son."

"You, ready to die for the quire," said Bowman reproachfully, "to
stick up for the quire's enemy, William!"

"Nobody will feel the loss of our church-work so much as I," said
the old man firmly; "that you d'all know. I've a-been in the quire
man and boy ever since I was a chiel of eleven. But for all that
'tisn't in me to call the man a bad man, because I truly and
sincerely believe en to be a good young feller."

Some of the youthful sparkle that used to reside there animated
William's eye as he uttered the words, and a certain nobility of
aspect was also imparted to him by the setting sun, which gave him a
Titanic shadow at least thirty feet in length, stretching away to
the east in outlines of imposing magnitude, his head finally
terminating upon the trunk of a grand old oak-tree.

"Mayble's a hearty feller enough," the tranter replied, "and will
spak to you be you dirty or be you clane. The first time I met en
was in a drong, and though 'a didn't know me no more than the dead,
'a passed the time of day. 'D'ye do?' he said, says he, nodding his
head. 'A fine day.' Then the second time I met en was full-buff in
town street, when my breeches were tore into a long strent by
getting through a copse of thorns and brimbles for a short cut home-
along; and not wanting to disgrace the man by spaking in that state,
I fixed my eye on the weathercock to let en pass me as a stranger.
But no: 'How d'ye do, Reuben?' says he, right hearty, and shook my
hand. If I'd been dressed in silver spangles from top to toe, the
man couldn't have been civiller."

At this moment Dick was seen coming up the village-street, and they
turned and watched him.


"I'm afraid Dick's a lost man," said the tranter.

"What?--no!" said Mail, implying by his manner that it was a far
commoner thing for his ears to report what was not said than that
his judgment should be at fault.

"Ay," said the tranter, still gazing at Dick's unconscious advance.
"I don't at all like what I see! There's too many o' them looks out
of the winder without noticing anything; too much shining of boots;
too much peeping round corners; too much looking at the clock;
telling about clever things SHE did till you be sick of it; and then
upon a hint to that effect a horrible silence about her. I've
walked the path once in my life and know the country, neighbours;
and Dick's a lost man!" The tranter turned a quarter round and
smiled a smile of miserable satire at the setting new moon, which
happened to catch his eye.

The others became far too serious at this announcement to allow them
to speak; and they still regarded Dick in the distance.

"'Twas his mother's fault," the tranter continued, "in asking the
young woman to our party last Christmas. When I eyed the blue frock
and light heels o' the maid, I had my thoughts directly. 'God bless
thee, Dicky my sonny,' I said to myself; 'there's a delusion for

"They seemed to be rather distant in manner last Sunday, I thought?"
Mail tentatively observed, as became one who was not a member of the

"Ay, that's a part of the zickness. Distance belongs to it, slyness
belongs to it, queerest things on earth belongs to it! There, 'tmay
as well come early as late s'far as I know. The sooner begun, the
sooner over; for come it will."

"The question I ask is," said Mr. Spinks, connecting into one thread
the two subjects of discourse, as became a man learned in rhetoric,
and beating with his hand in a way which signified that the manner
rather than the matter of his speech was to be observed, "how did
Mr. Maybold know she could play the organ? You know we had it from
her own lips, as far as lips go, that she has never, first or last,
breathed such a thing to him; much less that she ever would play."

In the midst of this puzzle Dick joined the party, and the news
which had caused such a convulsion among the ancient musicians was
unfolded to him. "Well," he said, blushing at the allusion to Miss
Day, "I know by some words of hers that she has a particular wish
not to play, because she is a friend of ours; and how the alteration
comes, I don't know."

"Now, this is my plan," said the tranter, reviving the spirit of the
discussion by the infusion of new ideas, as was his custom--"this is
my plan; if you don't like it, no harm's done. We all know one
another very well, don't we, neighbours?"

That they knew one another very well was received as a statement
which, though familiar, should not be omitted in introductory

"Then I say this"--and the tranter in his emphasis slapped down his
hand on Mr. Spinks's shoulder with a momentum of several pounds,
upon which Mr. Spinks tried to look not in the least startled--"I
say that we all move down-along straight as a line to Pa'son
Mayble's when the clock has gone six to-morrow night. There we one
and all stand in the passage, then one or two of us go in and spak
to en, man and man; and say, 'Pa'son Mayble, every tradesman d'like
to have his own way in his workshop, and Mellstock Church is yours.
Instead of turning us out neck and crop, let us stay on till
Christmas, and we'll gie way to the young woman, Mr. Mayble, and
make no more ado about it. And we shall always be quite willing to
touch our hats when we meet ye, Mr. Mayble, just as before.' That
sounds very well? Hey?"

"Proper well, in faith, Reuben Dewy."

"And we won't sit down in his house; 'twould be looking too familiar
when only just reconciled?"

"No need at all to sit down. Just do our duty man and man, turn
round, and march out--he'll think all the more of us for it."

"I hardly think Leaf had better go wi' us?" said Michael, turning to
Leaf and taking his measure from top to bottom by the eye. "He's so
terrible silly that he might ruin the concern."

"He don't want to go much; do ye, Thomas Leaf?" said William.

"Hee-hee! no; I don't want to. Only a teeny bit!"

"I be mortal afeard, Leaf; that you'll never be able to tell how
many cuts d'take to sharpen a spar," said Mail.

"I never had no head, never! that's how it happened to happen, hee-

They all assented to this, not with any sense of humiliating Leaf by
disparaging him after an open confession, but because it was an
accepted thing that Leaf didn't in the least mind having no head,
that deficiency of his being an unimpassioned matter of parish

"But I can sing my treble!" continued Thomas Leaf; quite delighted
at being called a fool in such a friendly way; "I can sing my treble
as well as any maid, or married woman either, and better! And if
Jim had lived, I should have had a clever brother! To-morrow is
poor Jim's birthday. He'd ha' been twenty-six if he'd lived till

"You always seem very sorry for Jim," said old William musingly.

"Ah! I do. Such a stay to mother as he'd always ha' been! She'd
never have had to work in her old age if he had continued strong,
poor Jim!"

"What was his age when 'a died?"

"Four hours and twenty minutes, poor Jim. 'A was born as might be
at night; and 'a didn't last as might be till the morning. No, 'a
didn't last. Mother called en Jim on the day that would ha' been
his christening day if he had lived; and she's always thinking about
en. You see he died so very young."

"Well, 'twas rather youthful," said Michael.

"Now to my mind that woman is very romantical on the matter o'
children?" said the tranter, his eye sweeping his audience.

"Ah, well she mid be," said Leaf. "She had twelve regular one after
another, and they all, except myself; died very young; either before
they was born or just afterwards."

"Pore feller, too. I suppose th'st want to come wi' us?" the
tranter murmured.

"Well, Leaf; you shall come wi' us as yours is such a melancholy
family," said old William rather sadly.

"I never see such a melancholy family as that afore in my life,"
said Reuben. "There's Leaf's mother, poor woman! Every morning I
see her eyes mooning out through the panes of glass like a pot-sick
winder-flower; and as Leaf sings a very high treble, and we don't
know what we should do without en for upper G, we'll let en come as
a trate, poor feller."

"Ay, we'll let en come, 'a b'lieve," said Mr. Penny, looking up, as
the pull happened to be at that moment.

"Now," continued the tranter, dispersing by a new tone of voice
these digressions about Leaf; "as to going to see the pa'son, one of
us might call and ask en his meaning, and 'twould be just as well
done; but it will add a bit of flourish to the cause if the quire
waits on him as a body. Then the great thing to mind is, not for
any of our fellers to be nervous; so before starting we'll one and
all come to my house and have a rasher of bacon; then every man-jack
het a pint of cider into his inside; then we'll warm up an extra
drop wi' some mead and a bit of ginger; every one take a thimbleful-
-just a glimmer of a drop, mind ye, no more, to finish off his inner
man--and march off to Pa'son Mayble. Why, sonnies, a man's not
himself till he is fortified wi' a bit and a drop? We shall be able
to look any gentleman in the face then without shrink or shame."

Mail recovered from a deep meditation and downward glance into the
earth in time to give a cordial approval to this line of action, and
the meeting adjourned.


At six o'clock the next day, the whole body of men in the choir
emerged from the tranter's door, and advanced with a firm step down
the lane. This dignity of march gradually became obliterated as
they went on, and by the time they reached the hill behind the
vicarage a faint resemblance to a flock of sheep might have been
discerned in the venerable party. A word from the tranter, however,
set them right again; and as they descended the hill, the regular
tramp, tramp, tramp of the united feet was clearly audible from the
vicarage garden. At the opening of the gate there was another short
interval of irregular shuffling, caused by a rather peculiar habit
the gate had, when swung open quickly, of striking against the bank
and slamming back into the opener's face.

"Now keep step again, will ye?" said the tranter. "It looks better,
and more becomes the high class of arrant which has brought us
here." Thus they advanced to the door.

At Reuben's ring the more modest of the group turned aside, adjusted
their hats, and looked critically at any shrub that happened to lie
in the line of vision; endeavouring thus to give a person who
chanced to look out of the windows the impression that their
request, whatever it was going to be, was rather a casual thought
occurring whilst they were inspecting the vicar's shrubbery and
grass-plot than a predetermined thing. The tranter, who, coming
frequently to the vicarage with luggage, coals, firewood, etc., had
none of the awe for its precincts that filled the breasts of most of
the others, fixed his eyes firmly on the knocker during this
interval of waiting. The knocker having no characteristic worthy of
notice, he relinquished it for a knot in one of the door-panels, and
studied the winding lines of the grain.

"O, sir, please, here's Tranter Dewy, and old William Dewy, and
young Richard Dewy, O, and all the quire too, sir, except the boys,
a-come to see you!" said Mr. Maybold's maid-servant to Mr. Maybold,
the pupils of her eyes dilating like circles in a pond.

"All the choir?" said the astonished vicar (who may be shortly
described as a good-looking young man with courageous eyes, timid
mouth, and neutral nose), abandoning his writing and looking at his
parlour-maid after speaking, like a man who fancied he had seen her
face before but couldn't recollect where.

"And they looks very firm, and Tranter Dewy do turn neither to the
right hand nor to the left, but stares quite straight and solemn
with his mind made up!"

"O, all the choir," repeated the vicar to himself; trying by that
simple device to trot out his thoughts on what the choir could come

"Yes; every man-jack of 'em, as I be alive!" (The parlour-maid was
rather local in manner, having in fact been raised in the same
village.) "Really, sir, 'tis thoughted by many in town and country

"Town and country!--Heavens, I had no idea that I was public
property in this way!" said the vicar, his face acquiring a hue
somewhere between that of the rose and the peony. "Well, 'It is
thought in town and country that--'"

"It is thought that you be going to get it hot and strong--excusen
my incivility, sir."

The vicar suddenly recalled to his recollection that he had long ago
settled it to be decidedly a mistake to encourage his servant Jane
in giving personal opinions. The servant Jane saw by the vicar's
face that he recalled this fact to his mind; and removing her
forehead from the edge of the door, and rubbing away the indent that
edge had made, vanished into the passage as Mr. Maybold remarked,
"Show them in, Jane."

A few minutes later a shuffling and jostling (reduced to as refined
a form as was compatible with the nature of shuffles and jostles)
was heard in the passage; then an earnest and prolonged wiping of
shoes, conveying the notion that volumes of mud had to be removed;
but the roads being so clean that not a particle of dirt appeared on
the choir's boots (those of all the elder members being newly oiled,
and Dick's brightly polished), this wiping might have been set down
simply as a desire to show that respectable men had no wish to take
a mean advantage of clean roads for curtailing proper ceremonies.
Next there came a powerful whisper from the same quarter:-

"Now stand stock-still there, my sonnies, one and all! And don't
make no noise; and keep your backs close to the wall, that company
may pass in and out easy if they want to without squeezing through
ye: and we two are enough to go in." . . . The voice was the

"I wish I could go in too and see the sight!" said a reedy voice--
that of Leaf.

"'Tis a pity Leaf is so terrible silly, or else he might," said

"I never in my life seed a quire go into a study to have it out
about the playing and singing," pleaded Leaf; "and I should like to
see it just once!"

"Very well; we'll let en come in," said the tranter. "You'll be
like chips in porridge, {1} Leaf--neither good nor hurt. All right,
my sonny, come along;" and immediately himself, old William, and
Leaf appeared in the room.

"We took the liberty to come and see 'ee, sir," said Reuben, letting
his hat hang in his left hand, and touching with his right the brim
of an imaginary one on his head. "We've come to see 'ee, sir, man
and man, and no offence, I hope?"

"None at all," said Mr. Maybold.

"This old aged man standing by my side is father; William Dewy by
name, sir."

"Yes; I see it is," said the vicar, nodding aside to old William,
who smiled.

"I thought you mightn't know en without his bass-viol," the tranter
apologized. "You see, he always wears his best clothes and his
bass-viol a-Sundays, and it do make such a difference in a' old
man's look."

"And who's that young man?" the vicar said.

"Tell the pa'son yer name," said the tranter, turning to Leaf; who
stood with his elbows nailed back to a bookcase.

"Please, Thomas Leaf, your holiness!" said Leaf; trembling.

"I hope you'll excuse his looks being so very thin," continued the
tranter deprecatingly, turning to the vicar again. "But 'tisn't his
fault, poor feller. He's rather silly by nature, and could never
get fat; though he's a' excellent treble, and so we keep him on."

"I never had no head, sir," said Leaf; eagerly grasping at this
opportunity for being forgiven his existence.

"Ah, poor young man!" said Mr. Maybold.

"Bless you, he don't mind it a bit, if you don't, sir," said the
tranter assuringly. "Do ye, Leaf?"

"Not I--not a morsel--hee, hee! I was afeard it mightn't please
your holiness, sir, that's all."

The tranter, finding Leaf get on so very well through his negative
qualities, was tempted in a fit of generosity to advance him still
higher, by giving him credit for positive ones. "He's very clever
for a silly chap, good-now, sir. You never knowed a young feller
keep his smock-frocks so clane; very honest too. His ghastly looks
is all there is against en, poor feller; but we can't help our
looks, you know, sir."

"True: we cannot. You live with your mother, I think, Leaf?"

The tranter looked at Leaf to express that the most friendly
assistant to his tongue could do no more for him now, and that he
must be left to his own resources.

"Yes, sir: a widder, sir. Ah, if brother Jim had lived she'd have
had a clever son to keep her without work!"

"Indeed! poor woman. Give her this half-crown. I'll call and see
your mother."

"Say, 'Thank you, sir,'" the tranter whispered imperatively towards

"Thank you, sir!" said Leaf.

"That's it, then; sit down, Leaf;" said Mr. Maybold.

"Y-yes, sir!"

The tranter cleared his throat after this accidental parenthesis
about Leaf; rectified his bodily position, and began his speech.

"Mr. Mayble," he said, "I hope you'll excuse my common way, but I
always like to look things in the face."

Reuben made a point of fixing this sentence in the vicar's mind by
gazing hard at him at the conclusion of it, and then out of the

Mr. Maybold and old William looked in the same direction, apparently
under the impression that the things' faces alluded to were there

"What I have been thinking"--the tranter implied by this use of the
past tense that he was hardly so discourteous as to be positively
thinking it then--"is that the quire ought to be gie'd a little
time, and not done away wi' till Christmas, as a fair thing between
man and man. And, Mr. Mayble, I hope you'll excuse my common way?"

"I will, I will. Till Christmas," the vicar murmured, stretching
the two words to a great length, as if the distance to Christmas
might be measured in that way. "Well, I want you all to understand
that I have no personal fault to find, and that I don't wish to
change the church music by forcible means, or in a way which should
hurt the feelings of any parishioners. Why I have at last spoken
definitely on the subject is that a player has been brought under--I
may say pressed upon--my notice several times by one of the
churchwardens. And as the organ I brought with me is here waiting"
(pointing to a cabinet-organ standing in the study), "there is no
reason for longer delay."

"We made a mistake I suppose then, sir? But we understood the young
woman didn't want to play particularly?" The tranter arranged his
countenance to signify that he did not want to be inquisitive in the

"No, nor did she. Nor did I definitely wish her to just yet; for
your playing is very good. But, as I said, one of the churchwardens
has been so anxious for a change, that, as matters stand, I couldn't
consistently refuse my consent."

Now for some reason or other, the vicar at this point seemed to have
an idea that he had prevaricated; and as an honest vicar, it was a
thing he determined not to do. He corrected himself; blushing as he
did so, though why he should blush was not known to Reuben.

"Understand me rightly," he said: "the church-warden proposed it to
me, but I had thought myself of getting--Miss Day to play."

"Which churchwarden might that be who proposed her, sir?--excusing
my common way." The tranter intimated by his tone that, so far from
being inquisitive, he did not even wish to ask a single question.

"Mr. Shiner, I believe."

"Clk, my sonny!--beg your pardon, sir, that's only a form of words
of mine, and slipped out accidental--he nourishes enmity against us
for some reason or another; perhaps because we played rather hard
upon en Christmas night. Anyhow 'tis certain sure that Mr. Shiner's
real love for music of a particular kind isn't his reason. He've no
more ear than that chair. But let that be."

"I don't think you should conclude that, because Mr. Shiner wants a
different music, he has any ill-feeling for you. I myself; I must
own, prefer organ-music to any other. I consider it most proper,
and feel justified in endeavouring to introduce it; but then,
although other music is better, I don't say yours is not good."

"Well then, Mr. Mayble, since death's to be, we'll die like men any
day you name (excusing my common way)."

Mr. Maybold bowed his head.

"All we thought was, that for us old ancient singers to be choked
off quiet at no time in particular, as now, in the Sundays after
Easter, would seem rather mean in the eyes of other parishes, sir.
But if we fell glorious with a bit of a flourish at Christmas, we
should have a respectable end, and not dwindle away at some nameless
paltry second-Sunday-after or Sunday-next-before something, that's
got no name of his own."

"Yes, yes, that's reasonable; I own it's reasonable."

"You see, Mr. Mayble, we've got--do I keep you inconvenient long,

"No, no."

"We've got our feelings--father there especially."

The tranter, in his earnestness, had advanced his person to within
six inches of the vicar's.

"Certainly, certainly!" said Mr. Maybold, retreating a little for
convenience of seeing. "You are all enthusiastic on the subject,
and I am all the more gratified to find you so. A Laodicean
lukewarmness is worse than wrongheadedness itself."

"Exactly, sir. In fact now, Mr. Mayble," Reuben continued, more
impressively, and advancing a little closer still to the vicar,
"father there is a perfect figure o' wonder, in the way of being
fond of music!"

The vicar drew back a little further, the tranter suddenly also
standing back a foot or two, to throw open the view of his father,
and pointing to him at the same time.

Old William moved uneasily in the large chair, and with a minute
smile on the mere edge of his lips, for good-manners, said he was
indeed very fond of tunes.

"Now, you see exactly how it is," Reuben continued, appealing to Mr.
Maybold's sense of justice by looking sideways into his eyes. The
vicar seemed to see how it was so well that the gratified tranter
walked up to him again with even vehement eagerness, so that his
waistcoat-buttons almost rubbed against the vicar's as he continued:
"As to father, if you or I, or any man or woman of the present
generation, at the time music is a-playing, was to shake your fist
in father's face, as may be this way, and say, "Don't you be
delighted with that music!--the tranter went back to where Leaf was
sitting, and held his fist so close to Leaf's face that the latter
pressed his head back against the wall: "All right, Leaf; my sonny,
I won't hurt you; 'tis just to show my meaning to Mr. Mayble.--As I
was saying, if you or I, or any man, was to shake your fist in
father's face this way, and say, "William, your life or your music!"
he'd say, "My life!" Now that's father's nature all over; and you
see, sir, it must hurt the feelings of a man of that kind for him
and his bass-viol to be done away wi' neck and crop."

The tranter went back to the vicar's front and again looked
earnestly at his face.

"True, true, Dewy," Mr. Maybold answered, trying to withdraw his
head and shoulders without moving his feet; but finding this
impracticable, edging back another inch. These frequent retreats
had at last jammed Mr. Maybold between his easy-chair and the edge
of the table.

And at the moment of the announcement of the choir, Mr. Maybold had
just re-dipped the pen he was using; at their entry, instead of
wiping it, he had laid it on the table with the nib overhanging. At
the last retreat his coat-tails came in contact with the pen, and
down it rolled, first against the back of the chair, thence turning
a summersault into the seat, thence falling to the floor with a

The vicar stooped for his pen, and the tranter, wishing to show
that, however great their ecclesiastical differences, his mind was
not so small as to let this affect his social feelings, stooped

"And have you anything else you want to explain to me, Dewy?" said
Mr. Maybold from under the table.

"Nothing, sir. And, Mr. Mayble, you be not offended? I hope you
see our desire is reason?" said the tranter from under the chair.

"Quite, quite; and I shouldn't think of refusing to listen to such a
reasonable request," the vicar replied. Seeing that Reuben had
secured the pen, he resumed his vertical position, and added, "You
know, Dewy, it is often said how difficult a matter it is to act up
to our convictions and please all parties. It may be said with
equal truth, that it is difficult for a man of any appreciativeness
to have convictions at all. Now in my case, I see right in you, and
right in Shiner. I see that violins are good, and that an organ is
good; and when we introduce the organ, it will not be that fiddles
were bad, but that an organ was better. That you'll clearly
understand, Dewy?"

"I will; and thank you very much for such feelings, sir. Piph-h-h-
h! How the blood do get into my head, to be sure, whenever I quat
down like that!" said Reuben, who having also risen to his feet
stuck the pen vertically in the inkstand and almost through the
bottom, that it might not roll down again under any circumstances

Now the ancient body of minstrels in the passage felt their
curiosity surging higher and higher as the minutes passed. Dick,
not having much affection for this errand, soon grew tired, and went
away in the direction of the school. Yet their sense of propriety
would probably have restrained them from any attempt to discover
what was going on in the study had not the vicar's pen fallen to the
floor. The conviction that the movement of chairs, etc.,
necessitated by the search, could only have been caused by the
catastrophe of a bloody fight beginning, overpowered all other
considerations; and they advanced to the door, which had only just
fallen to. Thus, when Mr. Maybold raised his eyes after the
stooping he beheld glaring through the door Mr. Penny in full-length
portraiture, Mail's face and shoulders above Mr. Penny's head,
Spinks's forehead and eyes over Mail's crown, and a fractional part
of Bowman's countenance under Spinks's arm--crescent shaped portions
of other heads and faces being visible behind these--the whole dozen
and odd eyes bristling with eager inquiry.

Mr. Penny, as is the case with excitable boot-makers and men, seeing
the vicar look at him and hearing no word spoken, thought it
incumbent upon himself to say something of any kind. Nothing
suggested itself till he had looked for about half a minute at the

"You'll excuse my naming of it, sir," he said, regarding with much
commiseration the mere surface of the vicar's face; "but perhaps you
don't know that your chin have bust out a-bleeding where you cut
yourself a-shaving this morning, sir."

"Now, that was the stooping, depend upon't," the tranter suggested,
also looking with much interest at the vicar's chin. "Blood always
will bust out again if you hang down the member that's been

Old William raised his eyes and watched the vicar's bleeding chin
likewise; and Leaf advanced two or three paces from the bookcase,
absorbed in the contemplation of the same phenomenon, with parted
lips and delighted eyes.

"Dear me, dear me!" said Mr. Maybold hastily, looking very red, and
brushing his chin with his hand, then taking out his handkerchief
and wiping the place.

"That's it, sir; all right again now, 'a b'lieve--a mere nothing,"
said Mr. Penny. "A little bit of fur off your hat will stop it in a
minute if it should bust out again."

"I'll let 'ee have a bit off mine," said Reuben, to show his good
feeling; "my hat isn't so new as yours, sir, and 'twon't hurt mine a

"No, no; thank you, thank you," Mr. Maybold again nervously replied.

"'Twas rather a deep cut seemingly?" said Reuben, feeling these to
be the kindest and best remarks he could make.

"O, no; not particularly."

"Well, sir, your hand will shake sometimes a-shaving, and just when
it comes into your head that you may cut yourself; there's the

"I have been revolving in my mind that question of the time at which
we make the change," said Mr. Maybold, "and I know you'll meet me
half-way. I think Christmas-day as much too late for me as the
present time is too early for you. I suggest Michaelmas or
thereabout as a convenient time for both parties; for I think your
objection to a Sunday which has no name is not one of any real

"Very good, sir. I suppose mortal men mustn't expect their own way
entirely; and I express in all our names that we'll make shift and
be satisfied with what you say." The tranter touched the brim of
his imaginary hat again, and all the choir did the same. "About
Michaelmas, then, as far as you are concerned, sir, and then we make
room for the next generation."

"About Michaelmas," said the vicar.


"'A took it very well, then?" said Mail, as they all walked up the

"He behaved like a man, 'a did so," said the tranter. "And I'm glad
we've let en know our minds. And though, beyond that, we ha'n't got
much by going, 'twas worth while. He won't forget it. Yes, he took
it very well. Supposing this tree here was Pa'son Mayble, and I
standing here, and thik gr't stone is father sitting in the easy-
chair. 'Dewy,' says he, 'I don't wish to change the church music in
a forcible way.'"

"That was very nice o' the man, even though words be wind."

"Proper nice--out and out nice. The fact is," said Reuben
confidentially, "'tis how you take a man. Everybody must be
managed. Queens must be managed: kings must be managed; for men
want managing almost as much as women, and that's saying a good

"'Tis truly!" murmured the husbands.

"Pa'son Mayble and I were as good friends all through it as if we'd
been sworn brothers. Ay, the man's well enough; 'tis what's put in
his head that spoils him, and that's why we've got to go."

"There's really no believing half you hear about people nowadays."

"Bless ye, my sonnies! 'tisn't the pa'son's move at all. That
gentleman over there" (the tranter nodded in the direction of
Shiner's farm) "is at the root of the mischty."

"What! Shiner?"

"Ay; and I see what the pa'son don't see. Why, Shiner is for
putting forward that young woman that only last night I was saying
was our Dick's sweet-heart, but I suppose can't be, and making much
of her in the sight of the congregation, and thinking he'll win her
by showing her off. Well, perhaps 'a woll."

"Then the music is second to the woman, the other churchwarden is
second to Shiner, the pa'son is second to the churchwardens, and God
A'mighty is nowhere at all."

"That's true; and you see," continued Reuben, "at the very beginning
it put me in a stud as to how to quarrel wi' en. In short, to save
my soul, I couldn't quarrel wi' such a civil man without belying my
conscience. Says he to father there, in a voice as quiet as a
lamb's, "William, you are a' old aged man, as all shall be, so sit
down in my easy-chair, and rest yourself." And down father zot. I
could fain ha' laughed at thee, father; for thou'st take it so
unconcerned at first, and then looked so frightened when the chair-
bottom sunk in."

"You see," said old William, hastening to explain, "I was scared to
find the bottom gie way--what should I know o' spring bottoms?--and
thought I had broke it down: and of course as to breaking down a
man's chair, I didn't wish any such thing."

"And, neighbours, when a feller, ever so much up for a miff, d'see
his own father sitting in his enemy's easy-chair, and a poor chap
like Leaf made the best of; as if he almost had brains--why, it
knocks all the wind out of his sail at once: it did out of mine."

"If that young figure of fun--Fance Day, I mean," said Bowman,
"hadn't been so mighty forward wi' showing herself off to Shiner and
Dick and the rest, 'tis my belief we should never ha' left the

"'Tis my belief that though Shiner fired the bullets, the parson
made 'em," said Mr. Penny. "My wife sticks to it that he's in love
wi' her."

"That's a thing we shall never know. I can't onriddle her, nohow."

"Thou'st ought to be able to onriddle such a little chiel as she,"
the tranter observed.

"The littler the maid, the bigger the riddle, to my mind. And
coming of such a stock, too, she may well be a twister."

"Yes; Geoffrey Day is a clever man if ever there was one. Never
says anything: not he."


"You might live wi' that man, my sonnies, a hundred years, and never
know there was anything in him."

"Ay; one o' these up-country London ink-bottle chaps would call
Geoffrey a fool."

"Ye never find out what's in that man: never," said Spinks.
"Close? ah, he is close! He can hold his tongue well. That man's
dumbness is wonderful to listen to."

"There's so much sense in it. Every moment of it is brimmen over
wi' sound understanding."

"'A can hold his tongue very clever--very clever truly," echoed
Leaf. "A do look at me as if 'a could see my thoughts running round
like the works of a clock."

"Well, all will agree that the man can halt well in his talk, be it
a long time or be it a short time. And though we can't expect his
daughter to inherit his closeness, she may have a few dribblets from
his sense."

"And his pocket, perhaps."

"Yes; the nine hundred pound that everybody says he's worth; but I
call it four hundred and fifty; for I never believe more than half I

"Well, he've made a pound or two, and I suppose the maid will have
it, since there's nobody else. But 'tis rather sharp upon her, if
she's been born to fortune, to bring her up as if not born for it,
and letting her work so hard."

"'Tis all upon his principle. A long--headed feller!"

"Ah," murmured Spinks, "'twould be sharper upon her if she were born
for fortune, and not to it! I suffer from that affliction."


A mood of blitheness rarely experienced even by young men was Dick's
on the following Monday morning. It was the week after the Easter
holidays, and he was journeying along with Smart the mare and the
light spring-cart, watching the damp slopes of the hill-sides as
they streamed in the warmth of the sun, which at this unsettled
season shone on the grass with the freshness of an occasional
inspector rather than as an accustomed proprietor. His errand was
to fetch Fancy, and some additional household goods, from her
father's house in the neighbouring parish to her dwelling at
Mellstock. The distant view was darkly shaded with clouds; but the
nearer parts of the landscape were whitely illumined by the visible
rays of the sun streaming down across the heavy gray shade behind.

The tranter had not yet told his son of the state of Shiner's heart
that had been suggested to him by Shiner's movements. He preferred
to let such delicate affairs right themselves; experience having
taught him that the uncertain phenomenon of love, as it existed in
other people, was not a groundwork upon which a single action of his
own life could be founded.

Geoffrey Day lived in the depths of Yalbury Wood, which formed
portion of one of the outlying estates of the Earl of Wessex, to
whom Day was head game-keeper, timber-steward, and general
overlooker for this district. The wood was intersected by the
highway from Casterbridge to London at a place not far from the
house, and some trees had of late years been felled between its
windows and the ascent of Yalbury Hill, to give the solitary
cottager a glimpse of the passers-by.

It was a satisfaction to walk into the keeper's house, even as a
stranger, on a fine spring morning like the present. A curl of
wood-smoke came from the chimney, and drooped over the roof like a
blue feather in a lady's hat; and the sun shone obliquely upon the
patch of grass in front, which reflected its brightness through the
open doorway and up the staircase opposite, lighting up each riser
with a shiny green radiance, and leaving the top of each step in

The window-sill of the front room was between four and five feet
from the floor, dropping inwardly to a broad low bench, over which,
as well as over the whole surface of the wall beneath, there always
hung a deep shade, which was considered objectionable on every
ground save one, namely, that the perpetual sprinkling of seeds and
water by the caged canary above was not noticed as an eyesore by
visitors. The window was set with thickly-leaded diamond glazing,
formed, especially in the lower panes, of knotty glass of various
shades of green. Nothing was better known to Fancy than the
extravagant manner in which these circular knots or eyes distorted
everything seen through them from the outside--lifting hats from
heads, shoulders from bodies; scattering the spokes of cart-wheels,
and bending the straight fir-trunks into semicircles. The ceiling
was carried by a beam traversing its midst, from the side of which
projected a large nail, used solely and constantly as a peg for
Geoffrey's hat; the nail was arched by a rainbow--shaped stain,
imprinted by the brim of the said hat when it was hung there
dripping wet.

The most striking point about the room was the furniture. This was
a repetition upon inanimate objects of the old principle introduced
by Noah, consisting for the most part of two articles of every sort.
The duplicate system of furnishing owed its existence to the
forethought of Fancy's mother, exercised from the date of Fancy's
birthday onwards. The arrangement spoke for itself: nobody who
knew the tone of the household could look at the goods without being
aware that the second set was a provision for Fancy, when she should
marry and have a house of her own. The most noticeable instance was
a pair of green-faced eight-day clocks, ticking alternately, which
were severally two and half minutes and three minutes striking the
hour of twelve, one proclaiming, in Italian flourishes, Thomas Wood
as the name of its maker, and the other--arched at the top, and
altogether of more cynical appearance--that of Ezekiel Saunders.
They were two departed clockmakers of Casterbridge, whose desperate
rivalry throughout their lives was nowhere more emphatically
perpetuated than here at Geoffrey's. These chief specimens of the
marriage provision were supported on the right by a couple of
kitchen dressers, each fitted complete with their cups, dishes, and
plates, in their turn followed by two dumb-waiters, two family
Bibles, two warming-pans, and two intermixed sets of chairs.

But the position last reached--the chimney-corner--was, after all,
the most attractive side of the parallelogram. It was large enough
to admit, in addition to Geoffrey himself; Geoffrey's wife, her
chair, and her work-table, entirely within the line of the mantel,
without danger or even inconvenience from the heat of the fire; and
was spacious enough overhead to allow of the insertion of wood poles
for the hanging of bacon, which were cloaked with long shreds of
soot, floating on the draught like the tattered banners on the walls
of ancient aisles.

These points were common to most chimney corners of the
neighbourhood; but one feature there was which made Geoffrey's
fireside not only an object of interest to casual aristocratic
visitors--to whom every cottage fireside was more or less a
curiosity--but the admiration of friends who were accustomed to
fireplaces of the ordinary hamlet model. This peculiarity was a
little window in the chimney-back, almost over the fire, around
which the smoke crept caressingly when it left the perpendicular
course. The window-board was curiously stamped with black circles,
burnt thereon by the heated bottoms of drinking-cups, which had
rested there after previously standing on the hot ashes of the
hearth for the purpose of warming their contents, the result giving
to the ledge the look of an envelope which has passed through
innumerable post-offices.

Fancy was gliding about the room preparing dinner, her head
inclining now to the right, now to the left, and singing the tips
and ends of tunes that sprang up in her mind like mushrooms. The
footsteps of Mrs. Day could be heard in the room overhead. Fancy
went finally to the door.

"Father! Dinner."

A tall spare figure was seen advancing by the window with periodical
steps, and the keeper entered from the garden. He appeared to be a
man who was always looking down, as if trying to recollect something
he said yesterday. The surface of his face was fissured rather than
wrinkled, and over and under his eyes were folds which seemed as a
kind of exterior eyelids. His nose had been thrown backwards by a
blow in a poaching fray, so that when the sun was low and shining in
his face, people could see far into his head. There was in him a
quiet grimness, which would in his moments of displeasure have
become surliness, had it not been tempered by honesty of soul, and
which was often wrongheadedness because not allied with subtlety.

Although not an extraordinarily taciturn man among friends slightly
richer than himself, he never wasted words upon outsiders, and to
his trapper Enoch his ideas were seldom conveyed by any other means
than nods and shakes of the head. Their long acquaintance with each
other's ways, and the nature of their labours, rendered words
between them almost superfluous as vehicles of thought, whilst the
coincidence of their horizons, and the astonishing equality of their
social views, by startling the keeper from time to time as very
damaging to the theory of master and man, strictly forbade any
indulgence in words as courtesies.

Behind the keeper came Enoch (who had been assisting in the garden)
at the well-considered chronological distance of three minutes--an
interval of non-appearance on the trapper's part not arrived at
without some reflection. Four minutes had been found to express
indifference to indoor arrangements, and simultaneousness had
implied too great an anxiety about meals.

"A little earlier than usual, Fancy," the keeper said, as he sat
down and looked at the clocks. "That Ezekiel Saunders o' thine is
tearing on afore Thomas Wood again."

"I kept in the middle between them," said Fancy, also looking at the
two clocks.

"Better stick to Thomas," said her father. "There's a healthy beat
in Thomas that would lead a man to swear by en offhand. He is as
true as the town time. How is it your stap-mother isn't here?"

As Fancy was about to reply, the rattle of wheels was heard, and
"Weh-hey, Smart!" in Mr. Richard Dewy's voice rolled into the
cottage from round the corner of the house.

"Hullo! there's Dewy's cart come for thee, Fancy--Dick driving--
afore time, too. Well, ask the lad to have pot-luck with us."

Dick on entering made a point of implying by his general bearing
that he took an interest in Fancy simply as in one of the same race
and country as himself; and they all sat down. Dick could have
wished her manner had not been so entirely free from all apparent
consciousness of those accidental meetings of theirs: but he let
the thought pass. Enoch sat diagonally at a table afar off; under
the corner cupboard, and drank his cider from a long perpendicular
pint cup, having tall fir-trees done in brown on its sides, He threw
occasional remarks into the general tide of conversation, and with
this advantage to himself; that he participated in the pleasures of
a talk (slight as it was) at meal-times, without saddling himself
with the responsibility of sustaining it.

"Why don't your stap-mother come down, Fancy?" said Geoffrey.
"You'll excuse her, Mister Dick, she's a little queer sometimes."

"O yes,--quite," said Richard, as if he were in the habit of
excusing people every day.

"She d'belong to that class of womankind that become second wives:
a rum class rather."

"Indeed," said Dick, with sympathy for an indefinite something.

"Yes; and 'tis trying to a female, especially if you've been a first
wife, as she hey."

"Very trying it must be."

"Yes: you see her first husband was a young man, who let her go too
far; in fact, she used to kick up Bob's-a-dying at the least thing
in the world. And when I'd married her and found it out, I thought,
thinks I, "'Tis too late now to begin to cure 'e;" and so I let her
bide. But she's queer,--very queer, at times!"

"I'm sorry to hear that."

"Yes: there; wives be such a provoking class o' society, because
though they be never right, they be never more than half wrong."

Fancy seemed uneasy under the infliction of this household
moralizing, which might tend to damage the airy-fairy nature that
Dick, as maiden shrewdness told her, had accredited her with. Her
dead silence impressed Geoffrey with the notion that something in
his words did not agree with her educated ideas, and he changed the

"Did Fred Shiner send the cask o' drink, Fancy?"

"I think he did: O yes, he did."

"Nice solid feller, Fred Shiner!" said Geoffrey to Dick as he helped
himself to gravy, bringing the spoon round to his plate by way of
the potato-dish, to obviate a stain on the cloth in the event of a

Now Geoffrey's eyes had been fixed upon his plate for the previous
four or five minutes, and in removing them he had only carried them
to the spoon, which, from its fulness and the distance of its
transit, necessitated a steady watching through the whole of the
route. Just as intently as the keeper's eyes had been fixed on the
spoon, Fancy's had been fixed on her father's, without premeditation
or the slightest phase of furtiveness; but there they were fastened.
This was the reason why:

Dick was sitting next to her on the right side, and on the side of
the table opposite to her father. Fancy had laid her right hand
lightly down upon the table-cloth for an instant, and to her alarm
Dick, after dropping his fork and brushing his forehead as a reason,
flung down his own left hand, overlapping a third of Fancy's with
it, and keeping it there. So the innocent Fancy, instead of pulling
her hand from the trap, settled her eyes on her father's, to guard
against his discovery of this perilous game of Dick's. Dick
finished his mouthful; Fancy finished, her crumb, and nothing was
done beyond watching Geoffrey's eyes. Then the hands slid apart;
Fancy's going over six inches of cloth, Dick's over one. Geoffrey's
eye had risen.

"I said Fred Shiner is a nice solid feller," he repeated, more

"He is; yes, he is," stammered Dick; "but to me he is little more
than a stranger."

"O, sure. Now I know en as well as any man can be known. And you
know en very well too, don't ye, Fancy?"

Geoffrey put on a tone expressing that these words signified at
present about one hundred times the amount of meaning they conveyed

Dick looked anxious.

"Will you pass me some bread?" said Fancy in a flurry, the red of
her face becoming slightly disordered, and looking as solicitous as
a human being could look about a piece of bread.

"Ay, that I will," replied the unconscious Geoffrey. "Ay," he
continued, returning to the displaced idea, "we are likely to remain
friendly wi' Mr. Shiner if the wheels d'run smooth."

"An excellent thing--a very capital thing, as I should say," the
youth answered with exceeding relevance, considering that his
thoughts, instead of following Geoffrey's remark, were nestling at a
distance of about two feet on his left the whole time.

"A young woman's face will turn the north wind, Master Richard: my
heart if 'twon't." Dick looked more anxious and was attentive in
earnest at these words. "Yes; turn the north wind," added Geoffrey
after an impressive pause. "And though she's one of my own flesh
and blood . . . "

"Will you fetch down a bit of raw-mil' cheese from pantry-shelf?"
Fancy interrupted, as if she were famishing.

"Ay, that I will, chiel; chiel, says I, and Mr. Shiner only asking
last Saturday night . . . cheese you said, Fancy?"

Dick controlled his emotion at these mysterious allusions to Mr.
Shiner,--the better enabled to do so by perceiving that Fancy's
heart went not with her father's--and spoke like a stranger to the
affairs of the neighbourhood. "Yes, there's a great deal to be said
upon the power of maiden faces in settling your courses," he
ventured, as the keeper retreated for the cheese.

"The conversation is taking a very strange turn: nothing that _I_
have ever done warrants such things being said!" murmured Fancy with
emphasis, just loud enough to reach Dick's ears.

"You think to yourself; 'twas to be," cried Enoch from his distant
corner, by way of filling up the vacancy caused by Geoffrey's
momentary absence. "And so you marry her, Master Dewy, and there's
an end o't."

"Pray don't say such things, Enoch," came from Fancy severely, upon
which Enoch relapsed into servitude.

"If we be doomed to marry, we marry; if we be doomed to remain
single, we do," replied Dick.

Geoffrey had by this time sat down again, and he now made his lips
thin by severely straining them across his gums, and looked out of
the window along the vista to the distant highway up Yalbury Hill.
"That's not the case with some folk," he said at length, as if he
read the words on a board at the further end of the vista.

Fancy looked interested, and Dick said, "No?"

"There's that wife o' mine. It was her doom to be nobody's wife at
all in the wide universe. But she made up her mind that she would,
and did it twice over. Doom? Doom is nothing beside a elderly
woman--quite a chiel in her hands!"

A movement was now heard along the upstairs passage, and footsteps
descending. The door at the foot of the stairs opened, and the
second Mrs. Day appeared in view, looking fixedly at the table as
she advanced towards it, with apparent obliviousness of the presence
of any other human being than herself. In short, if the table had
been the personages, and the persons the table, her glance would
have been the most natural imaginable.

She showed herself to possess an ordinary woman's face, iron-grey
hair, hardly any hips, and a great deal of cleanliness in a broad
white apron-string, as it appeared upon the waist of her dark stuff

"People will run away with a story now, I suppose," she began
saying, "that Jane Day's tablecloths are as poor and ragged as any
union beggar's!"

Dick now perceived that the tablecloth was a little the worse for
wear, and reflecting for a moment, concluded that 'people' in step-
mother language probably meant himself. On lifting his eyes he
found that Mrs. Day had vanished again upstairs, and presently
returned with an armful of new damask-linen tablecloths, folded
square and hard as boards by long compression. These she flounced
down into a chair; then took one, shook it out from its folds, and
spread it on the table by instalments, transferring the plates and
dishes one by one from the old to the new cloth.

"And I suppose they'll say, too, that she ha'n't a decent knife and
fork in her house!"

"I shouldn't say any such ill-natured thing, I am sure--" began
Dick. But Mrs. Day had vanished into the next room. Fancy appeared

"Very strange woman, isn't she?" said Geoffrey, quietly going on
with his dinner. "But 'tis too late to attempt curing. My heart!
'tis so growed into her that 'twould kill her to take it out. Ay,
she's very queer: you'd be amazed to see what valuable goods we've
got stowed away upstairs."

Back again came Mrs. Day with a box of bright steel horn-handled
knives, silver-plated forks, carver, and all complete. These were
wiped of the preservative oil which coated them, and then a knife
and fork were laid down to each individual with a bang, the carving
knife and fork thrust into the meat dish, and the old ones they had
hitherto used tossed away.

Geoffrey placidly cut a slice with the new knife and fork, and asked
Dick if he wanted any more.

The table had been spread for the mixed midday meal of dinner and
tea, which was common among frugal countryfolk. "The parishioners
about here," continued Mrs. Day, not looking at any living being,
but snatching up the brown delf tea-things, "are the laziest,
gossipest, poachest, jailest set of any ever I came among. And
they'll talk about my teapot and tea-things next, I suppose!" She
vanished with the teapot, cups, and saucers, and reappeared with a
tea-service in white china, and a packet wrapped in brown paper.
This was removed, together with folds of tissue-paper underneath;
and a brilliant silver teapot appeared.

"I'll help to put the things right," said Fancy soothingly, and
rising from her seat. "I ought to have laid out better things, I
suppose. But" (here she enlarged her looks so as to include Dick)
"I have been away from home a good deal, and I make shocking
blunders in my housekeeping." Smiles and suavity were then
dispensed all around by this bright little bird.

After a little more preparation and modification, Mrs. Day took her
seat at the head of the table, and during the latter or tea division
of the meal, presided with much composure. It may cause some
surprise to learn that, now her vagary was over, she showed herself
to be an excellent person with much common sense, and even a
religious seriousness of tone on matters pertaining to her


The effect of Geoffrey's incidental allusions to Mr. Shiner was to
restrain a considerable flow of spontaneous chat that would
otherwise have burst from young Dewy along the drive homeward. And
a certain remark he had hazarded to her, in rather too blunt and
eager a manner, kept the young lady herself even more silent than
Dick. On both sides there was an unwillingness to talk on any but
the most trivial subjects, and their sentences rarely took a larger
form than could be expressed in two or three words.

Owing to Fancy being later in the day than she had promised, the
charwoman had given up expecting her; whereupon Dick could do no
less than stay and see her comfortably tided over the disagreeable
time of entering and establishing herself in an empty house after an
absence of a week. The additional furniture and utensils that had
been brought (a canary and cage among the rest) were taken out of
the vehicle, and the horse was unharnessed and put in the plot
opposite, where there was some tender grass. Dick lighted the fire
already laid; and activity began to loosen their tongues a little.

"There!" said Fancy, "we forgot to bring the fire-irons!"

She had originally found in her sitting-room, to bear out the
expression 'nearly furnished' which the school-manager had used in
his letter to her, a table, three chairs, a fender, and a piece of
carpet. This 'nearly' had been supplemented hitherto by a kind
friend, who had lent her fire-irons and crockery until she should
fetch some from home.

Dick attended to the young lady's fire, using his whip-handle for a
poker till it was spoilt, and then flourishing a hurdle stick for
the remainder of the time.

"The kettle boils; now you shall have a cup of tea," said Fancy,
diving into the hamper she had brought.

"Thank you," said Dick, whose drive had made him ready for some,
especially in her company.

"Well, here's only one cup-and-saucer, as I breathe! Whatever could
mother be thinking about? Do you mind making shift, Mr. Dewy?"

"Not at all, Miss Day," said that civil person.

"--And only having a cup by itself? or a saucer by itself?"

"Don't mind in the least."

"Which do you mean by that?"

"I mean the cup, if you like the saucer."

"And the saucer, if I like the cup?"

"Exactly, Miss Day."

"Thank you, Mr. Dewy, for I like the cup decidedly. Stop a minute;
there are no spoons now!" She dived into the hamper again, and at
the end of two or three minutes looked up and said, "I suppose you
don't mind if I can't find a spoon?"

"Not at all," said the agreeable Richard.

"The fact is, the spoons have slipped down somewhere; right under
the other things. O yes, here's one, and only one. You would
rather have one than not, I suppose, Mr. Dewy?"

"Rather not. I never did care much about spoons."

"Then I'll have it. I do care about them. You must stir up your
tea with a knife. Would you mind lifting the kettle off, that it
may not boil dry?"

Dick leapt to the fireplace, and earnestly removed the kettle.

"There! you did it so wildly that you have made your hand black. We
always use kettle-holders; didn't you learn housewifery as far as
that, Mr. Dewy? Well, never mind the soot on your hand. Come here.
I am going to rinse mine, too."

They went' to a basin she had placed in the back room. "This is the
only basin I have," she said. "Turn up your sleeves, and by that
time my hands will be washed, and you can come."

Her hands were in the water now. "O, how vexing!" she exclaimed.
"There's not a drop of water left for you, unless you draw it, and
the well is I don't know how many furlongs deep; all that was in the
pitcher I used for the kettle and this basin. Do you mind dipping
the tips of your fingers in the same?"

"Not at all. And to save time I won't wait till you have done, if
you have no objection?"

Thereupon he plunged in his hands, and they paddled together. It
being the first time in his life that he had touched female fingers
under water, Dick duly registered the sensation as rather a nice

"Really, I hardly know which are my own hands and which are yours,
they have got so mixed up together," she said, withdrawing her own
very suddenly.

"It doesn't matter at all," said Dick, "at least as far as I am

"There! no towel! Whoever thinks of a towel till the hands are


"'Nobody.' How very dull it is when people are so friendly! Come
here, Mr. Dewy. Now do you think you could lift the lid of that box
with your elbow, and then, with something or other, take out a towel
you will find under the clean clothes? Be SURE don't touch any of
them with your wet hands, for the things at the top are all Starched
and Ironed."

Dick managed, by the aid of a knife and fork, to extract a towel
from under a muslin dress without wetting the latter; and for a
moment he ventured to assume a tone of criticism.

"I fear for that dress," he said, as they wiped their hands

"What?" said Miss Day, looking into the box at the dress alluded to.
"O, I know what you mean--that the vicar will never let me wear


"Well, I know it is condemned by all orders in the church as
flaunting, and unfit for common wear for girls who've their living
to get; but we'll see."

"In the interest of the church, I hope you don't speak seriously."

"Yes, I do; but we'll see." There was a comely determination on her
lip, very pleasant to a beholder who was neither bishop, priest, nor
deacon. "I think I can manage any vicar's views about me if he's
under forty."

Dick rather wished she had never thought of managing vicars.

"I certainly shall be glad to get some of your delicious tea," he
said in rather a free way, yet modestly, as became one in a position
between that of visitor and inmate, and looking wistfully at his
lonely saucer.

"So shall I. Now is there anything else we want, Mr Dewy?"

"I really think there's nothing else, Miss Day."

She prepared to sit down, looking musingly out of the window at
Smart's enjoyment of the rich grass. "Nobody seems to care about
me," she murmured, with large lost eyes fixed upon the sky beyond

"Perhaps Mr. Shiner does," said Dick, in the tone of a slightly
injured man.

"Yes, I forgot--he does, I know." Dick precipitately regretted that
he had suggested Shiner, since it had produced such a miserable
result as this.

"I'll warrant you'll care for somebody very much indeed another day,
won't you, Mr. Dewy?" she continued, looking very feelingly into the
mathematical centre of his eyes.

"Ah, I'll warrant I shall," said Dick, feelingly too, and looking
back into her dark pupils, whereupon they were turned aside.

"I meant," she went on, preventing him from speaking just as he was
going to narrate a forcible story about his feelings; "I meant that
nobody comes to see if I have returned--not even the vicar."

"If you want to see him, I'll call at the vicarage directly we have
had some tea."

"No, no! Don't let him come down here, whatever you do, whilst I am
in such a state of disarrangement. Parsons look so miserable and
awkward when one's house is in a muddle; walking about, and making
impossible suggestions in quaint academic phrases till your flesh
creeps and you wish them dead. Do you take sugar?"

Mr. Maybold was at this instant seen coming up the path.

"There! That's he coming! How I wish you were not here I--that is,
how awkward--dear, dear!" she exclaimed, with a quick ascent of
blood to her face, and irritated with Dick rather than the vicar, as
it seemed.

"Pray don't be alarmed on my account, Miss Day--good-afternoon!"
said Dick in a huff, putting on his hat, and leaving the room
hastily by the back-door.

The horse was caught and put in, and on mounting the shafts to start
he saw through the window the vicar, standing upon some books piled
in a chair, and driving a nail into the wall; Fancy, with a demure
glance, holding the canary-cage up to him, as if she had never in
her life thought of anything but vicars and canaries.


For several minutes Dick drove along homeward, with the inner eye of
reflection so anxiously set on his passages at arms with Fancy, that
the road and scenery were as a thin mist over the real pictures of
his mind. Was she a coquette? The balance between the evidence
that she did love him and that she did not was so nicely struck,
that his opinion had no stability. She had let him put his hand
upon hers; she had allowed her gaze to drop plumb into the depths of
his--his into hers--three or four times; her manner had been very
free with regard to the basin and towel; she had appeared vexed at
the mention of Shiner. On the other hand, she had driven him about
the house like a quiet dog or cat, said Shiner cared for her, and
seemed anxious that Mr. Maybold should do the same.

Thinking thus as he neared the handpost at Mellstock Cross, sitting
on the front board of the spring cart--his legs on the outside, and
his whole frame jigging up and down like a candle-flame to the time
of Smart's trotting--who should he see coming down the hill but his
father in the light wagon, quivering up and down on a smaller scale
of shakes, those merely caused by the stones in the road. They were
soon crossing each other's front.

"Weh-hey!" said the tranter to Smiler.

"Weh-hey!" said Dick to Smart, in an echo of the same voice.

"Th'st hauled her back, I suppose?" Reuben inquired peaceably.

"Yes," said Dick, with such a clinching period at the end that it
seemed he was never going to add another word. Smiler, thinking
this the close of the conversation, prepared to move on.

"Weh-hey!" said the tranter. "I tell thee what it is, Dick. That
there maid is taking up thy thoughts more than's good for thee, my
sonny. Thou'rt never happy now unless th'rt making thyself
miserable about her in one way or another."

"I don't know about that, father," said Dick rather stupidly.

"But I do--Wey, Smiler!--'Od rot the women, 'tis nothing else wi'
'em nowadays but getting young men and leading 'em astray."

"Pooh, father! you just repeat what all the common world says;
that's all you do."

"The world's a very sensible feller on things in jineral, Dick; very
sensible indeed."

Dick looked into the distance at a vast expanse of mortgaged estate.
"I wish I was as rich as a squire when he's as poor as a crow," he
murmured; "I'd soon ask Fancy something."

"I wish so too, wi' all my heart, sonny; that I do. Well, mind what
beest about, that's all."

Smart moved on a step or two. "Supposing now, father,--We-hey,
Smart!--I did think a little about her, and I had a chance, which I
ha'n't; don't you think she's a very good sort of--of--one?"

"Ay, good; she's good enough. When you've made up your mind to
marry, take the first respectable body that comes to hand--she's as
good as any other; they be all alike in the groundwork; 'tis only in
the flourishes there's a difference. She's good enough; but I can't
see what the nation a young feller like you--wi a comfortable house
and home, and father and mother to take care o' thee, and who sent
'ee to a school so good that 'twas hardly fair to the other
children--should want to go hollering after a young woman for, when
she's quietly making a husband in her pocket, and not troubled by
chick nor chiel, to make a poverty-stric' wife and family of her,
and neither hat, cap, wig, nor waistcoat to set 'em up with: be
drowned if I can see it, and that's the long and the short o't, my

Dick looked at Smart's ears, then up the hill; but no reason was
suggested by any object that met his gaze.

"For about the same reason that you did, father, I suppose."

"Dang it, my sonny, thou'st got me there!" And the tranter gave
vent to a grim admiration, with the mien of a man who was too
magnanimous not to appreciate artistically a slight rap on the
knuckles, even if they were his own.

"Whether or no," said Dick, "I asked her a thing going along the

"Come to that, is it? Turk! won't thy mother be in a taking! Well,
she's ready, I don't doubt?"

"I didn't ask her anything about having me; and if you'll let me
speak, I'll tell 'ee what I want to know. I just said, Did she care
about me?"


"And then she said nothing for a quarter of a mile, and then she
said she didn't know. Now, what I want to know is, what was the
meaning of that speech?" The latter words were spoken resolutely,
as if he didn't care for the ridicule of all the fathers in

"The meaning of that speech is," the tranter replied deliberately,
"that the meaning is meant to be rather hid at present. Well, Dick,
as an honest father to thee, I don't pretend to deny what you d'know
well enough; that is, that her father being rather better in the
pocket than we, I should welcome her ready enough if it must be

"But what d'ye think she really did mean?" said the unsatisfied

"I'm afeard I am not o' much account in guessing, especially as I
was not there when she said it, and seeing that your mother was the
only 'ooman I ever cam' into such close quarters as that with."

"And what did mother say to you when you asked her?" said Dick

"I don't see that that will help 'ee."

"The principle is the same."

"Well--ay: what did she say? Let's see. I was oiling my working-
day boots without taking 'em off, and wi' my head hanging down, when
she just brushed on by the garden hatch like a flittering leaf.
"Ann," I said, says I, and then,--but, Dick I'm afeard 'twill be no
help to thee; for we were such a rum couple, your mother and I,
leastways one half was, that is myself--and your mother's charms was
more in the manner than the material."

"Never mind! 'Ann,' said you."

"'Ann,' said I, as I was saying . . . 'Ann,' I said to her when I
was oiling my working-day boots wi' my head hanging down, 'Woot hae
me?' . . . What came next I can't quite call up at this distance o'
time. Perhaps your mother would know,--she's got a better memory
for her little triumphs than I. However, the long and the short o'
the story is that we were married somehow, as I found afterwards.
'Twas on White Tuesday,--Mellstock Club walked the same day, every
man two and two, and a fine day 'twas,--hot as fire,--how the sun
did strike down upon my back going to church! I well can mind what
a bath o' sweating I was in, body and soul! But Fance will ha'
thee, Dick--she won't walk with another chap--no such good luck."

"I don't know about that," said Dick, whipping at Smart's flank in a
fanciful way, which, as Smart knew, meant nothing in connection with
going on. "There's Pa'son Maybold, too--that's all against me."

"What about he? She's never been stuffing into thy innocent heart
that he's in hove with her? Lord, the vanity o' maidens!"


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