Chapter 1  

DESCRIPTION OF FARMER OAK -- AN INCIDENT


    When Farmer Oak smiled, the corners of his mouth spread
till they were within an unimportant distance of his ears, his eyes
were
reduced to chinks, and diverging wrinkles appeared round
them, extending upon his countenance
like the rays in a
rudimentary sketch of the rising sun.
    His Christian name was Gabriel, and on working days he
was a young man of sound judgment, easy motions, proper
dress
, and general good character. On Sundays he was a
man of
misty views, rather given to postponing, and hampered
by his best clothes and umbrella: upon the whole, one who
felt himself to occupy morally that vast middle space of
Laodicean neutrality
which lay between the Communion people
of the parish and the drunken section, -- that is, he went to
church, but
yawned privately by the time the con-gegation
reached the Nicene creed
, and thought of what there would
be for dinner when he meant to be listening to the sermon.





his lower extremities being encased in ordinary leather
leggings and boots emphatically large, affording to each
foot a
roomy apartment so constructed that any wearer
might stand in a river all day long and know nothing of damp





This instrument being several years older than Oak's grandfather,
had the peculiarity of going either too fast or not at all. The
smaller of its hands, too, occasionally slipped round on the
pivot, and thus,
though the minutes were told with precision,
nobody could be quite certain of the hour they belonged to
.
The stopping peculiarity of his watch Oak remedied by thumps
and shakes, and he escaped any evil consequences from the
other two defects by constant comparisons with and observations
of the sun and stars,
and by pressing his face close to the
glass of his neighbours' windows, till he could discern the hour
marked by the green- faced timekeepers within. It may be
mentioned that Oak's fob being difficult of access, by reason
of its somewhat high situation in the waistband of his trousers
(which also lay at a remote height under his waistcoat), the watch
was as a necessity
pulled out by throwing the body to one side,
compressing the mouth and face to a mere mass of ruddy flesh
on account of the
exertion required, and drawing up the watch by
its chain,
like a bucket from a well.





In his face one might notice that many of the hues
and
curves of youth had tarried on to manhood: there
even remained in his
remoter crannies some relics of
the boy
. His height and breadth would have been
sufficient to make his presence imposing, had they
been exhibited with due consideration. But there is
a way some men have, rural and urban alike, for which
the mind is more responsible than flesh and sinew: it
is a way of curtailing their dimensions by their
manner of showing them
. And from a quiet modesty
that would have become a vestal which seemed continually
to impress upon him that he had no great claim on the
world's room





He was at the brightest period of masculine growth, for his
intellect and his emotions were clearly separated: he had passed
the time during which the influence of youth indiscriminately
mingles
them in the character of impulse, and he had not yet
arrived at the stage wherein they become united again, in the
character of prejudice, by the influence of a wife and family.





The girl on the summit of the load sat motionless,
surrounded by tables and chairs with their legs
upwards, backed by an oak settle, and ornamented
in front by pots of geraniums, myrtles, and cactuses,
together with a caged canary -- all probably from
the windows of the house just vacated. There was
also a cat in a willow basket, from the partly-opened
lid of which she gazed with half-closed eyes, and
affectionately surveyed the small birds around.





It was a fine morning, and the sun lighted up to a scarlet
glow
the crimson jacket she wore, and painted a soft lustre
upon her bright face and dark hair.
The myrtles, geraniums,
and cactuses packed around her were fresh and green, and at
such a
leafless season they invested the whole concern of
horses, waggon, furniture, and girl with a peculiar vernal
charm
. What possessed her to indulge in such a performance
in the sight of the sparrows, blackbirds, and unperceived
farmer who were alone its spectators, -- whether the smile
began as a factitious one, to test her capacity in that art,
-- nobody knows; it ended certainly in a real smile. She
blushed at herself, and seeing her reflection blush, blushed
the more.





The picture was a delicate one. Woman's prescriptive
infirmity had stalked into the sunlight, which had
clothed it in the freshness of an originality
. A
cynical inference was irresistible by Gabriel Oak as
he regarded the scene, generous though he fain would
have been. There was no necessity whatever for her
looking in the glass. She did not adjust her hat,
or pat her hair, or press a dimple into shape, or
do one thing to signify that any such intention had
been her motive in taking up the glass. She simply
observed herself as a fair product of Nature in the
feminine kind
, her thoughts seeming to glide into far-off
though likely dramas
in which men would play a part --
vistas of probable triumphs -- the smiles being of a
phase suggesting that hearts were imagined as lost
and won
.





There was something in the tone of twopence remarkably insignificant.
Threepence had a definite value as money -- it was an appreciable
infringement on a day's wages
, and, as such, a higgling matter; but
twopence -- "Here," he said, stepping forward and handing twopence
to the gatekeeper; "let the young woman pass." He looked up at her
then; she heard his words, and looked down.
    Gabriel's features adhered throughout their form so exactly to
the middle line between the beauty of St. John and the ugliness of
Judas Iscariot
, as represented in a window of the church he attended,
that not a single lineament could be selected and called worthy
either of distinction or notoriety. The red-jacketed and dark-haired
maiden seemed to think so too, for she carelessly glanced over him,
and told her man to drive on. She might have looked her thanks to
Gabriel on a minute scale, but she did not speak them; more probably
she felt none, for in gaining her a passage he had lost her her
point, and we know how women take a favour of that kind.



Chapter 2  

NIGHT -- THE FLOCK -- AN INTERIOR -- ANOTHER INTERIOR


Norcombe Hill -- not far from lonely Toller-Down -- was one of
the spots which suggest to a passer-by that he is in the presence
of a shape approaching the indestructible as nearly as any to be
found on earth
. It was a featureless convexity of chalk and soil
-- an ordinary specimen of those smoothly- outlined protuberances
of the globe
which may remain undisturbed on some great day of
confusion, when far grander heights and dizzy granite precipices
topple down.




The dry leaves in the ditch simmered and boiled in the
same breezes, a tongue of air occasionally ferreting out
a few, and sending them spinning across the grass. A group
or two of the latest in date amongst the dead multitude
had remained till this very mid-winter time on the twigs
which bore them and in falling rattled against the trunks
with smart taps.
     Between this half-wooded half naked hill, and the vague
still
horizon that its summit indistinctly commanded, was a
mysterious sheet of fathomless shade -- the sounds from which
suggested that what it concealed bore some reduced resemblance
to features here. The thin grasses, more or less coating the
hill, were touched by the wind in breezes of differing powers,
and almost of differing natures -- one rubbing the blades
heavily, another raking them piercingly, another brushing
them like a soft broom. The instinctive act of humankind was
to stand and listen, and learn how the trees on the right and
the trees on the left wailed or chaunted to each other in the
regular antiphonies of a cathedral choir
; how hedges and other
shapes to leeward then caught the note, lowering it to the
tenderest sob; and how the hurrying gust then plunged into the
south, to be heard no more.
     The sky was clear -- remarkably clear -- and the twinkling
of all the stars seemed to be but throbs of one body, timed by
a common pulse
.



To persons standing alone on a hill during a clear midnight
such as this, the roll of the world eastward is almost a palpable
movement
. The sensation may be caused by the panoramic glide of
the stars past earthly objects
, which is perceptible in a few
minutes of stillness, or by the better outlook upon space that
a hill affords, or by the wind, or by the solitude; but whatever
be its origin, the impression of riding along is vivid and abiding.
The poetry of motion is a phrase much in use, and to enjoy the epic
form of that gratification it is necessary to stand on a hill at a
small hour of the night, and, having first expanded with a sense of
difference from the mass of civilised mankind, who are
dreamwrapt
and
disregardful of all such proceedings at this time, long and quietly
watch your
stately progress through the stars. After such a nocturnal
reconnoitre
it is hard to get back to earth, and to believe that the
consciousness of such majestic speeding is derived from a tiny human
frame
.




A rectangular space of light appeared in the side of the hut,
and
in the opening the outline of Farmer Oak's figure. He carried
a lantern in his hand, and closing the door behind him, came
forward and busied himself about this nook of the field for
nearly twenty minutes, the lantern light appearing and disappearing
here and there, and brightening him or darkening him as he stood
before or behind it.
     Oak's motions, though they had a quiet energy, were slow, and
their deliberateness accorded well with his occupation. Fitness being
the basis of
beauty, nobody could have denied that his steady swings
and turns in and about the flock had elements of grace.




He returned to the hut, bringing in his arms a new- born lamb,
consisting of four legs large enough for a full- grown sheep,
united by a seemingly inconsiderable membrane about half the
substance of the legs collectively, which constituted the animal's
entire body just at present.
     The little speck of life he placed on a wisp of hay before the
small stove, where a can of milk was simmering.





The inside of the hut, as it now presented itself, was cosy and
alluring, and the scarlet handful of fire in addition to the candle,
reflecting its own genial colour upon whatever it could reach, flung
associations of enjoyment even over utensils and tools
.




Being a man not without a frequent consciousness that there
was some charm in this life he led, he stood still after looking
at
the sky as a useful instrument, and regarded it in an appreciative
spirit, as a work of art
superlatively beautiful. For a moment he
seem
ed impressed with the speaking loneliness of the scene, or rather
with the complete abstraction from all its compass of the sights and
sounds of man. Human shapes, interferences, troubles, and joys were all
as if they were not, and there seemed to be on the shaded hemisphere of
the globe
no sentient being save himself; he could fancy them all gone
round to the sunny side.




To find themselves utterly alone at night where company is
desirable and expected makes some people fearful; but a case
more trying by far to the nerves is to discover some mysterious
companionship when intuition, sensation, memory, analogy,
testimony, probability, induction -- every kind of evidence
in the logician's list -- have united to persuade consciousness
that it is quite in isolation.




In making even horizontal and clear inspections we colour and
mould according to the wants within us whatever our eyes bring
in
. Had Gabriel been able from the first to get a distinct view
of her countenance, his estimate of it as very handsome or slightly
so would have been as his soul required a divinity at the moment
or was ready supplied with one
. Having for some time known the want
of a
satisfactory form to fill an increasing void within him, his
position moreover affording the widest scope for his fancy, he
painted her a beauty.


Chapter 3  

A GIRL ON HORSEBACK -- CONVERSATION


There was a bright air and manner about her now, by which she
seemed to imply that the desirability of her existence could
not be questioned
; and this rather saucy assumption failed
in being
offensive because a beholder felt it to be, upon
the whole, true. Like exceptional emphasis in the tone of a
genius, that which would have made mediocrity ridiculous
was an addition to recognised power.





That the girl's thoughts hovered about her face and
form
as soon as she caught Oak's eyes conning the same
page
was natural, and almost certain. The self-consciousness
shown would have been vanity if a little more pronounced,
dignity if a little less. Rays of male vision seem to have
a tickling effect upon virgin faces in rural districts;
she brushed hers with her hand, as if Gabriel had been
irritating its pink surface by actual touch
, and the free
air of her previous movements
was reduced at the same time
to a chastened phase of itself. Yet it was the man who
blushed, the maid not at all.





A perception caused him to withdraw his own eyes from
hers
as suddenly as if he had been caught in a theft.
Recollection of the strange antics she had indulged in
when passing through the trees was succeeded in the girl
by a nettled palpitation, and that by a hot face. It was
a time to see a woman redden who was not given to
reddening as a rule; not a point in the milkmaid but
was of the deepest
rose-colour. From the Maiden's Blush,
through all varieties of the Provence down to the Crimson
Tuscany, the countenance of Oak's acquaintance quickly
graduated
; whereupon he, in considerateness, turned away
his head.





His want of tact had deeply offended her -- not by seeing what
he could not
help, but by letting her know that he had seen it.
For, as without law there is no sin, without eyes there is no
indecorum; and she appeared to feel that Gabriel's espial had
made her an indecorous woman without her own connivance
. It was
food for great regret with him; it was also a
contretemps which
touched into life a latent heat he had experienced in that direction.





     How long he remained unconscious Gabriel never
knew. During the first stages of his return to perception
peculiar deeds seemed to be in course of enactment. His
dog was howling, his head was aching fearfully -- somebody
was pulling him about, hands were loosening his neckerchief.
     On opening his eyes he found that evening had sunk
to dusk
in a strange manner of unexpectedness. The young
girl with the remarkably pleasant lips and white teeth was
beside him. More than this -- astonishingly more -- his
head was upon her lap, his face and neck were disagreeably
wet, and her fingers were unbuttoning his collar.





He was endeavouring to catch and appreciate the sensation
of being thus with her, his head upon her dress, before
the event passed on into the heap of bygone things. He
wished she knew his impressions; but he would as soon have
thought of carrying an odour in a net as of attempting to
convey the intangibilities of his feeling in the coarse
meshes of language
.


--------------------------------------------------------------

"Oh, never mind that," said the girl, smiling, and allowing
her smile to hold good for Gabriel's next remark, whatever
that might prove to be.


--------------------------------------------------------------

"I wonder if I should have died?" Gabriel said, in a low
voice, which was rather meant to travel back to himself
than to her.

"Oh no!" the girl replied. She seemed to prefer a less
tragic probability; to have saved a man from death involved
talk that should harmonise with the dignity of such a
deed -- and she
shunned it.

"I believe you saved my life, Miss ---- I don't know your
name. I know your aunt's, but not yours."

"I would just as soon not tell it -- rather not. There is
no reason either why I should, as you probably will never
have much to do with me."

"Still, I should like to know."

"You can inquire at my aunt's -- she will tell you."

"My name is Gabriel Oak."

"And mine isn't. You seem fond of yours in speaking it so
decisively, Gabriel Oak."

"You see, it is the only one I shall ever have, and I must
make the most of it
."

"I always think mine sounds odd and disagreeable."

"I should think you might soon get a new one."

"Mercy! -- how many opinions you keep about you concerning
other people
, Gabriel Oak."

"Well, Miss -- excuse the words -- I thought you would like
them. But I can't match you, I know, in mapping out my mind
upon my tongue
. I never was very clever in my inside. But I
thank you. Come, give me your hand."

--------------------------------------------------------------

"I am sorry," he said the instant after.

"What for?"

"Letting your hand go so quick"

"You may have it again if you like; there it
is." She gave him her hand again.

Oak held it longer this time -- indeed, curiously
long. "How soft it is -- being winter time, too --
not chapped or rough or anything!" he said.

"There -- that's long enough," said she, though
without pulling it away. "But I suppose you are
thinking you would like to kiss it? You may if
ou want to."

"I wasn't thinking of any such thing," said Gabriel,
simply; "but I will ----"

"That you won't!" She snatched back her hand.

Gabriel felt himself guilty of another want of tact.

"Now find out my name," she said, teasingly; and
withdrew.

--------------------------------------------------------------


Chapter 4

GABRIEL'S RESOLVE -- THE VISIT -- THE MISTAKE


   The only superiority in women that is tolerable to the
rival sex is, as a rule, that of the unconscious kind; but
a superiority which recognizes itself may sometimes please
by suggesting possibilities of capture to the subordinated
man
.
   This well-favoured and comely girl soon made appreciable
inroads upon the emotional constitution of young Farmer Oak
.
   Love, being an extremely exacting usurer (a sense of exorbitant
profit, spiritually, by an exchange of hearts, being at the bottom
of pure passions, as that of exorbitant profit, bodily or materially,
is at the bottom of those of lower atmosphere
), every morning Oak's
feelings were as sensitive as the money-market in calculations upon
his chances. His dog waited for his meals in a way so like that in
which Oak waited for the girl's presence, that the farmer was quite
struck with the resemblance, felt it lowering, and would not look at
the dog.
However, he continued to watch through the hedge for her
regular coming, and thus his sentiments towards her were deepened
without any corresponding effect being produced upon herself.




He liked saying "Bathsheba" as a private enjoyment instead
of whistling; turned over his taste to black hair, though
he had sworn by brown ever since he was a boy, isolated himself
till the space he filled in the public eye was contemptibly
small. Love is a possible strength in an actual weakness.
Marriage transforms a distraction into a support, the power
of which should be, and happily often is, in direct proportion
to the degree of imbecility it supplants. Oak began now to see
light in this direction, and said to himself, "I'll make her
my wife, or upon my soul I shall be good for nothing!"





Gabriel had watched the blue wood-smoke curling from
the chimney with strange meditation. At evening he
had fancifully traced it down the chimney to the spot
of its origin -- seen the hearth and Bathsheba beside
it -- beside it in her out-door dress; for the clothes
she had worn on the hill were by association equally
with her person included in the compass of his affection;
they seemed at this early time of his love a necessary
ingredient
of the sweet mixture called Bathsheba Everdene.





Nothing disturbed the stillness of the cottage save
the chatter of a knot of sparrows on the eaves; one
might fancy scandal and rumour to be no less the staple
topic of these little coteries on roofs than of those
under them. It seemed that the omen was an unpropitious
one, for, as the rather untoward commencement of Oak's
overtures, just as he arrived by the garden gate, he saw
a cat inside, going into various arched shapes and fiendish
convulsions
at the sight of his dog George. The dog took
no notice , for he had arrived at an age at which all
superfluous barking was cynically avoided as a waste
of breath
--





Gabriel meditated, and so deeply that he brought small
furrows into his forehead by sheer force of reverie.
Where the issue of an interview is as likely to be a
vast change for the worse as for the better, any initial
difference from expectation causes nipping sensations of
failure
. Oak went up to the door a little abashed: his
mental rehearsal and the reality had had no common
grounds of opening.

--------------------------------------------------------------

"No;" 'tis no use," she said. "I don't want to marry you."

"Try."

"I have tried hard all the time I've been thinking; for a
marriage would be very nice in one sense. People would talk
about me, and think I had won my battle, and I should feel
triumphant, and all that, But a husband ----

"Well!"

"Why, he'd always be there, as you say; whenever I looked
up, there he'd be."

"Of course he would -- I, that is."

"Well, what I mean is that I shouldn't mind being a bride
at a wedding, if I could be one without having a husband.
But since a woman can't show off in that way by herself,
I shan't marry -- at least yet."

"That's a terrible wooden story."

--------------------------------------------------------------

She contracted a yawn to an inoffensive smallness, so
that it was hardly ill-mannered at all. "I don't love
you," she said."

"But I love you -- and, as for myself, I am content
to be liked."

"Oh Mr. Oak -- that's very fine! You'd get to despise
me."

"Never," said Mr Oak, so earnestly that he seemed to
be coming, by the force of his words, straight through
the bush and into her arms
. "I shall do one thing in
this life -- one thing certain -- that is, love you,
and long for you, and keep wanting you till I die."
His voice had a genuine pathos now, and his large brown
hands perceptibly trembled.


"It seems dreadfully wrong not to have you when you
feel so much!" she said with a little distress, and
looking hopelessly around for some means of escape from
her moral dilemma. "How I wish I hadn't run after you!"
However she seemed to have a short cut for getting back
to cheerfulness, and set her face to signify archness.
"It wouldn't do, Mr Oak. I want somebody to tame me; I
am too independent; and you would never be able to, I
know
."

--------------------------------------------------------------

"Mr. Oak," she said, with luminous distinctness and
common sense, "you are better off than I. I have hardly
a penny in the world -- I am staying with my aunt for
my bare sustenance. I am better educated than you --
and I don't love you a bit: that's my side of the case.
Now yours: you are a farmer just beginning; and you ought
in common prudence, if you marry at all (which you
should certainly not think of doing at present), to
marry a woman with money, who would stock a larger
farm for you than you have now."

Gabriel looked at her with a little surprise and much
admiration.

"That's the very thing I had been thinking myself!" he
naively said.

Farmer Oak had one-and-a-half Christian characteristics
too many to succeed with Bathsheba: his humility, and
a superfluous moiety of honesty
. Bathsheba was decidedly
disconcerted.

"Well, then, why did you come and disturb me?" she said,
almost
angrily, if not quite, an enlarging red spot
rising in each cheek.

"I can't do what I think would be -- would be ----"

"Right?"

"No: wise."

"You have made an admission now, Mr. Oak," she exclaimed,
with even more hauteur, and rocking her head disdainfully.
"After that, do you think I could marry you? Not if I know
it."

He broke in passionately. "But don't mistake me like that!
Because I am open enough to own what every man in my shoes
would have thought of, you make your colours come up your
face, and get
crabbed with me.

--------------------------------------------------------------

No man likes to see his emotions the sport of a
merry-go- round of skittishness
. "Very well," said
Oak, firmly, with the bearing of one who was going
to give his days and nights to Ecclesiastes for ever.
"Then I'll ask you no more."



Chapter 5

DEPARTURE OF BATHSHEBA -- A PASTORAL TRAGEDY


It may have been observed that there is no regular
path for getting out of love as there is for getting
in. Some people look upon marriage as a short cut that
way, but it has been known to fail. Separation, which
was the means that chance offered to Gabriel Oak by
Bathsheba's disappearance though effectual with people
of certain humours is apt to idealize the removed object
with others -- notably those whose affection, placid and
regular as it may be, flows deep and long. Oak belonged
to the even-tempered order of humanity, and felt the secret
fusion of himself in Bathsheba to be burning with a finer
flame
now that she was gone -- that was all.





Gabriel had two dogs. George, the elder, exhibited an
ebony-tipped nose, surrounded by a narrow margin of pink
flesh, and a coat marked in random splotches approximating
in colour to white and slaty grey;





This dog had originally belonged to a shepherd of inferior
morals and dreadful temper, and the result was that George
knew the exact degrees of condemnation signified by cursing
and swearing of all descriptions better than the wickedest
old man in the neighbourhood
. Long experience had so precisely
taught the animal the difference between such exclamations as
"Come in!" and "D ---- ye, come in!" that he knew to a hair's
breadth the rate of trotting back from the ewes' tails that
each call involved, if a staggerer with the sheep crook was
to be escaped.





So earnest and yet so wrong-headed was this young dog
(he had no, name in particular, and answered with perfect
readiness to any
pleasant interjection), that if sent
behind the flock to help them on, he did it so thoroughly
that he would have chased them across the whole county
with the greatest pleasure
if not called off or reminded
when to stop by the example of old George.





Oak was an intensely humane man: indeed, his humanity often
tore in pieces any politic intentions of his which bordered
on strategy, and carried him on as by gravitation
. A shadow
in his life had always been that his flock ended in mutton
--
that a day came and found every shepherd an arrant traitor to
his defenseless sheep. His first feeling now was one of pity
for the untimely fate of these gentle ewes and their unborn
lambs.





Oak raised his head, and wondering what he could do, listlessly
surveyed the scene. By the outer margin of the Pit was an oval
pond, and over it hung the attenuated skeleton of a chrome-yellow
moon which had only a few days to last -- the morning star dogging
her on the left hand. The pool glittered like a dead man's eye,
and as the world awoke a breeze blew, shaking and elongating the
reflection of the moon without breaking it, and turning the image
of the star to a phosphoric streak upon the water
. All this Oak saw
and remembered.





George's son had done his work so thoroughly that he was
considered too good a workman to live, and was, in fact,
taken and tragically shot at twelve o'clock that same day --
another instance of the untoward fate which so often attends
dogs and other philosophers who follow out a train of reasoning
to its logical conclusion, and attempt perfectly consistent
conduct in a world made up so largely of compromise
.




Chapter 6

THE FAIR -- THE JOURNEY -- THE FIRE


At one end of the street stood from two to three hundred
blithe and hearty labourers waiting upon Chance -- all
men of the stamp to whom labour suggests nothing worse
than a wrestle with gravitation, and pleasure nothing
better than a renunciation of the same.





Gabriel was paler now. His eyes were more meditative,
and his expression was more sad. He had passed through
an ordeal of wretchedness which had given him more than
it had taken away. He had sunk from his modest elevation
as pastoral king into the very slime-pits of Siddim; but
there was left to him a dignified calm he had never before
known, and that indifference to fate which, though it often
makes a villain of a man, is the basis of his sublimity
when it does not. And thus the abasement had been exaltation,
and the loss gain.





The road stretched through water-meadows traversed by little
brooks, whose quivering surfaces were braided along their
centres, and folded into creases at the sides; or, where the
flow was more rapid, the stream was pied with spots of white
froth, which rode on in undisturbed serenity.





Here he spread half of the hay as a bed, and, as well as
he could in the darkness, pulled the other half over him
by way of bed- clothes, covering himself entirely, and
feeling, physically, as comfortable as ever he had been
in his life. Inward melancholy it was impossible for a
man like Oak, introspective far beyond his neighbours,
to banish quite, whilst conning the present untoward
page of his history
. So, thinking of his misfortunes,
amorous and pastoral he fell asleep, shepherds enjoying,
in common with sailors, the privilege of being able to
summon the god instead of having to wait for him.





His weary face now began to be painted over with a rich
orange glow, and the whole front of his smock-frock and
gaiters was covered with a dancing shadow pattern of
thorn-twigs -- the light reaching him through a leafless
intervening hedge -- and the metallic curve of his
sheep-crook shone silver-bright in the same abounding
rays.
He came up to the boundary fence, and stood to
regain breath. It seemed as if the spot was unoccupied
by a living soul.




Then a superincumbent bundle rolled down, with a whisking noise;
flames elongated, and bent themselves about with a quiet roar,
but no crackle. Banks of smoke went off horizontally at the back
like passing clouds, and behind these burned hidden pyres,
illuminating the semi-transparent sheet of smoke to a lustrous
yellow uniformity. Individual straws in the foreground were
consumed in a creeping movement of ruddy heat, as if they were
knots of red worms, and above shone imaginary fiery faces,
tongues hanging from lips, glaring eyes, and other impish forms,
from which at intervals sparks flew in clusters like birds from
a nest.




Gabriel found that, far from being alone he was in a great company --
whose shadows danced merrily up and down, timed by the jigging of
the flames, and not at all by their owners' movements. The assemblage
-- belonging to that class of society which casts its thoughts into
the form of
feeling, and its feelings into the form of commotion --
set to work with a remarkable confusion of purpose.

Chapter 7

RECOGNITION -- A TIMID GIRL


The bailiff who showed this nervous dread of loving
his neighbour as himself, went up the hill, and Oak
walked on to the village, still astonished at the
rencounter with Bathsheba, glad of his nearness to
her, and perplexed at the rapidity with which the
unpractised girl of Norcombe had developed into the
supervising and cool woman here. But some women only
require an emergency to make them fit for one.




The voice was unexpectedly attractive; it was the low
and dulcet note suggestive of romance; common in
descriptions, rare in experience.

"I'll thank you to tell me if I'm in the way for Warren's
Malthouse?" Gabriel resumed, primarily to gain the
i
nformation, indirectly to get more of the music.





She extended her hand; Gabriel his. In feeling for each
other's palm in the
gloom before the money could be passed,
a minute incident occurred which told much. Gabriel's
fingers alighted on the young woman's wrist. It was beating
with a throb of tragic intensity. He had frequently felt
the same quick, hard beat in the femoral artery of -- his
lambs when overdriven.





He fancied that he had felt himself in the penumbra of
a very deep sadness when touching that slight and fragile
creature. But wisdom lies in moderating mere impressions,
and Gabriel endeavoured to think little of this.




Chapter 8

THE MALTHOUSE -- THE CHAT -- NEWS


The room inside was lighted only by the, ruddy glow
from the kiln mouth, which shone over the floor with
the streaming, horizontality of the setting sun, and
threw upwards the shadows of all facial irregularities
in those assembled around.





Gabriel's nose was greeted by an atmosphere laden with the
sweet smell of new malt. The conversation (which seemed to
have been concerning the origin of the fire) immediately
ceased, and every one ocularly criticised him to the degree
expressed by contracting the flesh of their foreheads and
looking at him with narrowed eyelids, as if he had been a
light too strong for their sight. Several exclaimed
meditatively, after this operation had been completed: --

"Oh, 'tis the new shepherd, 'a b'lieve."

"We thought we heard a hand pawing about the door for the
bobbin, but weren't sure 'twere not a dead leaf blowed across,"
said another. "Come in, shepherd; sure ye be welcome, though
we don't know yer name."

"Gabriel Oak, that's my name, neighbours."


--------------------------------------------------------------

"Ay, sure," said his son, a young man about sixty-five, with
a semi-bald head and one tooth in the left centre of his upper
jaw, which made much of itself by standing prominent,
like a
milestone in a bank.


--------------------------------------------------------------

Jacob's son Billy, a child of forty, or thereabouts, who
manifested the peculiarity of possessing a cheerful soul
in a gloomy body, and whose whiskers were assuming a
chinchilla shade here and there.




Jacob stooped to the God-forgive-me, which was a two-handled
tall mug standing in the ashes, cracked and charred with heat:
it was rather furred with extraneous matter about the outside,
especially in the crevices of the handles, the innermost curves
of which may not have seen daylight for several years by reason
of this encrustation thereon -- formed of ashes accidentally
wetted with cider and baked hard; but to the mind of any sensible
drinker the cup was no worse for that, being incontestably clean
on the inside and about the rim. It may be observed that such a
class of mug is called a God-forgive-me in Weatherbury and its
vicinity for uncertain reasons; probably because its size makes
any given toper feel ashamed of himself when he sees its bottom
in drinking it empty
.


--------------------------------------------------------------

"A clane cup for the shepherd," said the maltster commandingly.

"No -- not at all," said Gabriel, in a reproving tone of
considerateness. "I never fuss about dirt in its pure state,
and when I know what sort it is."
Taking the mug he drank an
inch or more from the depth of its contents, and duly passed
it to the next man. "I wouldn't think of giving such trouble
to neighbours in washing up when there's so much work to be
done in the world already." continued Oak
in a moister tone,
after recovering from the stoppage of breath which is
occasioned by pulls at large mugs.

"A right sensible man," said Jacob.


--------------------------------------------------------------

He always signed his name "Henery" -- strenuously insisting
upon that spelling, and if any passing schoolmaster ventured
to remark that the second "e" was superfluous and old-fashioned,
he received the reply that "H-e-n-e-r-y" was the name he was
christened and the name he would stick to -- in the tone of
one to whom orthographical differences were matters which had
a great deal to do with personal character.


--------------------------------------------------------------

"Come, Mark Clark -- come. Ther's plenty more in the
barrel," said Jan.

"Ay -- that I will, 'tis my only doctor," replied Mr.
Clark, who, twenty years younger than Jan Coggan, revolved
in the same orbit. He secreted mirth on all occasions for
special discharge at popular parties.


"Why, Joseph Poorgrass, ye han't had a drop!" said Mr.
Coggan to a self-conscious man in the background, thrusting
the cup towards him.

"Such a modest man as he is!" said Jacob Smallbury. "Why,
ye've hardly had strength of eye enough to look in our
young mis'ess's face
, so I hear, Joseph?"

All looked at Joseph Poorgrass with pitying reproach.

"No -- I've hardly looked at her at all," simpered Joseph,
reducing his body smaller whilst talking, apparently from
a meek sense of undue prominence.
"And when I seed her,
'twas nothing but blushes with me!"

"Poor feller," said Mr. Clark.

"'Tis a curious nature for a man," said Jan Coggan.

"Yes," continued Joseph Poorgrass -- his shyness, which
was so
painful as a defect, filling him with a mild complacency
now that it was regarded as an interesting study. "'Twere blush,
blush, blush with me every minute of the time, when she was
speaking to me."

"I believe ye, Joseph Poorgrass, for we all know ye to be a
very bashful man."

"'Tis a' awkward gift for a man, poor soul," said the maltster.
"And ye have suffered from it a long time, we know."

"Ay, ever since..."

"Oh, ever since I was a boy. Yes -- mother was concerned to
her heart
about it -- yes. But 'twas all nought."

"Did ye ever go into the world to try and stop it, Joseph
Poorgrass?"

"Oh ay, tried all sorts o' company. They took me to Greenhill
Fair, and into a great gay jerry-go-nimble show, where there
were women-folk riding round -- standing upon horses, with
hardly anything on but their smocks; but it didn't cure me a
morsel.


--------------------------------------------------------------

"---- And so 'a lost himself quite," continued Mr. Coggan,
with an impassive face, implying that a true narrative,
like time and tide, must run its course and would respect
no man
. "And as he was coming along in the middle of the
night, much afeared, and not able to find his way out of
the trees nohow, 'a cried out, 'Man-a-lost! man-a-lost!'
A owl in a tree happened to be crying "Whoo-whoo-whoo!"
as owls do, you know, shepherd" (Gabriel nodded), "and
Joseph, all in a tremble, said, 'Joseph Poorgrass, of
Weatherbury, sir!'"

"No, no, now -- that's too much!" said the timid man,
becoming a man of brazen courage all of a sudden.
"I didn't say sir. I'll tike my oath I didn't say
'Joseph Poorgrass o' Weatherbury, sir.'
No, no; what's
right is right, and I never said sir to the bird


--------------------------------------------------------------

A meditation on the obvious inference was indulged in by
all, and during its continuance each directed his vision
into the ashpit, which glowed like a desert in the tropics
under a vertical sun
, shaping their eyes long and liny,
partly because of the light, partly from the depth of the
subject discussed
.

--------------------------------------------------------------

"Well, a very good-hearted man were Farmer Everdene, and I
being a respectable young fellow was allowed to call and
see her and drink as much ale as I liked, but not to carry
away any --
outside my skin I mane of course."

"Ay, ay, Jan Coggan; we know yer maning."

"And so you see 'twas beautiful ale, and I wished to value
his kindness as much as I could, and not to be so ill-
mannered as to drink only a thimbleful, which would have
been insulting the man's generosity ----"

"True, Master Coggan, 'twould so," corroborated Mark Clark.

"---- And so I used to eat a lot of salt fish afore going,
and then by the time I got there I were as dry as a lime-
basket
-- so thorough dry that that ale would slip down --
ah, 'twould
slip down sweet! Happy times! heavenly times!
such lovely drunks as I used to have at that house!"


--------------------------------------------------------------

"Not a single damn allowed; no, not a bare poor one, even
at the most cheerful moment when all were blindest, though
the good old word of sin thrown in here and there at such
times is a great relief to a
merry soul."

"True," said the maltster. "Nater requires her swearing at
the regular times, or she's not herself; and unholy
exclamations is a necessity of life
."


--------------------------------------------------------------

"He was fond enough of her as his sweetheart."

"Used to kiss her scores and long-hundreds o' times, so
'twas said," observed Coggan.

"He was very proud of her, too, when they were married,
as I've been told," said the maltster.

"Ay," said Coggan. "He admired her so much that he used
to light the candle three time a night to look at her
."

"Boundless love; I shouldn't have supposed it in the
universe!" murmered Joseph Poorgrass, who habitually
spoke on a large scale in his moral reflections.

--------------------------------------------------------------

"Coggan," he said, "I could never wish for a handsomer
woman than I've got, but feeling she's ticketed as my
lawful wife, I can't help my wicked heart wandering,
do what I will." But at last I believe he cured it by
making her take off her wedding-ring and calling her
by her maiden name as they sat together after the shop
was shut, and so 'a would get to fancy she was only
his sweetheart, and not married to him at all. And as
soon as he could thoroughly
fancy he was doing wrong
and
committing the seventh, 'a got to like her as well
as ever
, and they lived on a perfect picture of mutel
love."

"Well, 'twas a most ungodly remedy," murmured Joseph
Poorgrass


--------------------------------------------------------------

"Hundred and seventeen," chuckled another old gentleman,
given to mental arithmetic and little conversation, who
had hitherto sat unobserved in a corner.

"Well, then, that's my age," said the maltster, emphatically.

"O no, father!" said Jacob. "Your turnip-hoeing were in
the summer and your malting in the winter of the same years,
and ye don't ought to count-both halves father."

"Chok' it all! I lived through the summers, didn't I? That's
my question. I suppose ye'll say next I be no age at all to
speak of?"

"Sure we shan't," said Gabriel, soothingly.

"Ye be a very old aged person, malter," attested Jan Coggan,
also soothingly. "We all know that, and ye must have a
wonderful talented constitution to be able to live so long,
mustn't he, neighbours?"

"True, true; ye must, malter, wonderful," said the meeting
unanimously.

The maltster, being know pacified, was even generous enough
to voluntarily disparage in a slight degree the virtue of
having lived a great many years
, by mentioning that the cup
they were drinking out of was three years older than he.


--------------------------------------------------------------

"He can blow the flute very well -- that 'a can," said
a young married man, who having no individuality worth
mentioning was known as "Susan Tall's husband."
He
continued, "I'd as lief as not be able to blow into a
flute as well as that."

"He's a clever man, and 'tis a true comfort for us to
have such a shepherd," murmured Joseph Poorgrass, in
a
soft cadence. "We ought to feel full o' thanksgiving
that he's not a player of ba'dy songs 'instead of these
merry tunes; for 'twould have been just as easy for God
to have made the shepherd a loose low man -- a man of
iniquity, so to speak it -- as what he is. Yes, for our
wives' and daughters' sakes we should feel real thanks
giving."

"True, true, -- real thanksgiving!" dashed in Mark Clark
conclusively, not feeling it to be of any consequence to
his opinion that he had only heard about a word and three-
quarters of what Joseph had said
.


--------------------------------------------------------------

"Danged if ye bain't altered now, malter," said a voice
with the vigour natural to the enunciation of a remarkably
evident truism
. It came from the old man in the background,
whose offensiveness and spiteful ways were barely atoned
for by the occasional chuckle he contributed to general
laughs.

"O no, no," said Gabriel.

"Don't ye play no more shepherd" said Susan Tall's husband,
the young married man who had spoken once before. "I must
be moving and when there's tunes going on I seem as if hung
in wires
. If I thought after I'd left that music was still
playing, and I not there, I should be quite melancholy- like."


--------------------------------------------------------------

That night at Coggan's, Gabriel Oak, beneath the screen of
closed eyelids, was busy with fancies, and full of movement,
like a river flowing rapidly under its ice
. Night had always
been the time at which he saw Bathsheba most vividly, and
through the slow hours of shadow he tenderly regarded her
image now
. It is rarely that the pleasures of the imagination
will compensate for the pain of sleeplessness, but they
possibly did with Oak to-night, for the delight of merely
seeing her effaced for the time his perception of the
great difference between seeing and possessing.



Chapter 9

THE HOMESTEAD -- A VISITOR -- HALF-CONFIDENCES


Soft brown
mosses, like faded velveteen, formed cushions
upon the stone tiling, and tufts of the houseleek or
sengreen sprouted from the eaves of the low surrounding
buildings. A gravel walk leading from the door to the
road in front was encrusted at the sides with more moss
-- here it was a silver-green variety, the nut-brown of
the gravel being visible to the width of only a foot or
two in the centre. This circumstance, and the generally
sleepy air of the whole prospect here, together with the
animated and contrasting state of the reverse facade,
suggested to the imagination that on the adaptation of
the building for farming purposes the vital principle
of the house had turned round inside its body
to face
the other way. Reversals of this kind, strange deformities,
tremendous paralyses, are often seen to be inflicted by
trade upon edifices
-- either individual or in the
aggregate as streets and towns -- which were originally
planned for pleasure alone.





Going up, the floors above were found to have a very
irregular surface, rising to ridges, sinking into
valleys
; and being just then uncarpeted, the face of
the boards
was seen to be eaten into innumerable
vermiculations. Every window replied by a clang to
the opening and shutting of every door, a tremble
followed every bustling movement, and a creak
accompanied a walker about the house, like a spirit,
wherever he went
.





Liddy, the maltster's great-granddaughter, was about
Bathsheba's equal in age, and her face was a prominent
advertisement
of the light-hearted English country girl.
The beauty her features might have lacked in form was
amply made up for by perfection of hue, which at this
winter-time was the softened ruddiness on a surface of
high rotundity that we meet with in a
Terburg or a Gerard
Douw
;
and, like the presentations of those great colourists,
it was a face which kept well back from the boundary between
comeliness and the ideal
. Though elastic in nature she was
less daring than Bathsheba, and occasionally showed some
earnestness, which consisted half of genuine feeling, and
half of mannerliness superadded by way of duty.


--------------------------------------------------------------

"Dear, what a thirtover* place this world is!" continued
Mrs. Coggan (a wholesome-looking lady who had a voice
for each class of remark according to the emotion involved;
who could toss a pancake or twirl a mop with the accuracy
of pure mathematics
, and who at this moment showed hands
shaggy with fragments of dough and arms encrusted with
flour
). "I am never up to my elbows, Miss, in making a
pudding but one of two things do happen -- either my nose
must needs begin tickling, and I can't live without
scratching it, or somebody knocks at the door."


(*contrary)
--------------------------------------------------------------

"Never was such a hopeless man for a woman! He's been
courted by sixes and sevens -- all the girls, gentle
and simple, for miles round, have tried him. Jane Perkins
worked at him for two months like a slave, and the two
Miss Taylors spent a year upon him, and he cost Farmer
Ives's daughter nights of tears and twenty pounds' worth
of new clothes
; but Lord -- the money might as well have
been thrown out of the window."


--------------------------------------------------------------

He always had a loosened tooth or a cut finger to
show to particular friends, which he did with an
air of being thereby elevated above the common
herd of afflictionless humanity
-- to which exhibition
people were expected to say "Poor child!" with a
dash of congratulation as well as pity.


--------------------------------------------------------------

"What a pucker everything is in!" said Bathsheba,
discontentedly when the child had gone. "Get away,
Maryann, or go on with your scrubbing, or do something!
You ought to be married by this time, and not here
troubling me!"

"Ay, mistress -- so I did. But what between the poor
men I won't have, and the rich men who won't have me,
I stand as a pelicon in the wilderness!
"

"Did anybody ever want to marry you miss?" Liddy
ventured to ask when they were again alone. "Lots
of 'em, I daresay?"

Bathsheba paused, as if about to refuse a reply, but
the temptation to say yes, since it was really in her
power was irresistible by
aspiring virginity, in spite
of her spleen at having been published as old
.

"A man wanted to once," she said, in a highly experienced
tone and the image of Gabriel Oak, as the farmer, rose
before her.

"How nice it must seem!" said Liddy, with the fixed features
of mental realization
. "And you wouldn't have him?"

"He wasn't quite good enough for me."

"How sweet to be able to disdain, when most of us are glad
to say, 'Thank you!' I seem I hear it. 'No, sir -- I'm your
better.' or 'Kiss my foot, sir; my face is for mouths of
consequence.'
And did you love him, miss?"

"Oh, no. But I rather liked him."


--------------------------------------------------------------

Chapter 10


MISTRESS AND MEN


Liddy chose a position at her elbow and began to sew,
sometimes pausing and looking round, or with the air
of a privileged person, taking up one of the half-sovereigns
lying before her and
surveying it merely as a work of art,
while strictly preventing her countenance from expressing
any wish to possess it as money
.





She was a woman who never, like some newly married,
showed conjugal tenderness in public, perhaps because
she had none to show.

"Oh, you are," said Bathsheba. "Well, Laban, will you
stay on?"

"Yes, he'll stay, ma'am!" said again the shrill tongue
of Laban's lawful wife.

"Well, he can speak for himself, I suppose."

"Oh Lord, not he, ma'am! A simple tool. Well enough, but
a poor gawkhammer mortal," the wife replied

"Heh-heh-heh!" laughed the married man with a hideous
effort of
appreciation, for he was as irrepressibly
good-humoured under ghastly snubs as a parliamentary
candidate on the hustings.





Gabriel was rather staggered by the remarkable coolness
of her manner. Certainly nobody without previous information
would have dreamt that Oak and the handsome woman before
whom he stood had ever been other than strangers. But
perhaps her air was the inevitable result of the social
rise which had advanced her from a cottage to a large
house and fields. The case is not unexampled in high
places. When, in the writings of the later poets, Jove
and his family are found to have moved from their cramped
quarters on the peak of Olympus into the wide sky above it,
their words show a proportionate increase of arrogance and
reserve
.



Chapter 11

OUTSIDE THE BARRACKS -- SNOW -- A MEETING


  For dreariness nothing could surpass a prospect in the
outskirts of a certain town and military station, many
miles north of Weatherbury, at a later hour on this same
snowy evening -- if that may be called a prospect of
which the chief constituent was darkness
.
  It was a night when sorrow may come to the brightest
without causing any great sense of incongruity: when,
with impressible persons, love becomes solicitousness,
hope
sinks to misgiving, and faith to hope: when the
exercise of memory does not stir feelings of regret at
opportunities for ambition that have been passed by,
and anticipation does not prompt to enterprise.





The changes of the seasons are less obtrusive on spots
of this kind than amid woodland scenery. Still, to a
close observer, they are just as perceptible; the
difference is that their media of manifestation are
less
trite and familiar than such well-known ones as
the bursting of the buds or the fall of the leaf
. Many
are not so stealthy and gradual as we may be apt to
imagine in considering the general torpidity of a moor
or waste. Winter, in coming to the country hereabout,
advanced in well-marked stages, wherein might have been
successively observed the retreat of the snakes, the
transformation of the ferns, the filling of the pools,
a rising of fogs, the embrowning by frost, the collapse
of the fungi, and an obliteration by snow.





From this chaotic skyful of crowding flakes the
mead and moor momentarily received additional
clothing, only to appear momentarily more naked
thereby
. The vast arch of cloud above was strangely
low, and formed as it were the roof of a large dark
cavern
, gradually sinking in upon its floor; for
the instinctive thought was that the snow lining the
heavens and that encrusting the earth would soon
unite into one mass without any intervening stratum
of air at all
.





An indescribable succession of dull blows, perplexing
in their regularity, sent their sound with difficulty
through the fluffy atmosphere
. It was a neighbouring
clock striking ten. The bell was in the open air, and
being overlaid with several inches of muffling snow,
had lost its voice for the time
.





Here the spot stopped, and dwindled smaller. The
figure was stooping. Then a morsel of snow flew
across the river towards the fifth window. It
smacked against the wall at a point several yards
from its mark. The throw was the idea of a man
conjoined with the execution of a woman
. No man
who had ever seen bird, rabbit, or squirrel in
his childhood, could possibly have thrown with
such utter imbecility as was shown here.




The river would have been seen by day to be of
that deep smooth sort which races middle and
sides with the same gliding precision, any
irregularities of speed being immediately
corrected by a small whirlpool. Nothing was
heard in reply to the signal but the gurgle
and cluck of one of these invisible wheels --
together with a few small sounds which a sad
man would have called moans, and a happy man
laughter
-- caused by the flapping of the waters
against trifling objects in other parts of the
stream.

--------------------------------------------------------------

"Is it Sergeant Troy?" said the blurred spot in the
snow, tremulously.

This person was so much like a mere shade upon the
earth, and the other speaker so much a part of the
building, that one would have said the wall was
holding a conversation with the snow
.

"Yes," came suspiciously from the shadow. "What girl
are you?"

"Oh, Frank -- don't you know me?" said the spot.
"Your wife, Fanny Robin."

"Fanny!" said the wall, in utter astonishment.

--------------------------------------------------------------

"I am surprised."

"Yes -- so am I. And Frank, when will it be?"

"What?"

"That you promised."

"I don't quite recollect."

"O you do! Don't speak like that. It weighs me
to the earth. It makes me say what ought to be
said first by you
."

"Never mind -- say it."

"O, must I? -- it is, when shall we be married,
Frank?"

"Oh, I see. Well -- you have to get proper clothes."

--------------------------------------------------------------


Chapter 12

FARMERS -- A RULE -- AN EXCEPTION


The low though extensive hall, supported by beams and
pillars, and latterly dignified by the name of Corn
Exchange, was thronged with hot men who talked among
each other in twos and threes, the speaker of the minute
looking sideways into his auditor's face and concentrating
his argument by a contraction of one eyelid during delivery.
The greater number carried in their hands ground-ash saplings,
using them partly as walking-sticks and partly for poking up
pigs, sheep, neighbours with their backs turned, and
restful
things in general, which seemed to require such treatment in
the course of their
peregrinations.





a handful of corn poured into the palm, which, after
criticism, was flung upon the floor, an issue of events
perfectly well known to half-a-dozen acute town-bred
fowls which had as usual crept into the building unobserved,
and waited the fulfilment of their anticipations with a
high- stretched neck and oblique eye.
   Among these heavy yeomen a feminine figure glided, the
single one of her sex that the room contained. She was
prettily and even daintily dressed. She moved between
them as a
chaise between carts, was heard after them as
a
romance after sermons, was felt among them like a
breeze among furnaces.





Something in the exact arch of her upper unbroken
row of teeth, and in the keenly pointed corners of
her red mouth when, with parted lips, she somewhat
defiantly turned up her face to argue a point with
a tall man, suggested that there was potentiality
enough in that lithe slip of humanity for alarming
exploits of sex, and daring enough to carry them out
.
But her eyes had a softness -- invariably a softness --
which, had they not been dark, would have seemed
mistiness; as they were, it lowered an expression
that might have been piercing to simple clearness.





Chapter 13

SORTES SANCTORUM -- THE VALENTINE


Bathsheba paused to regard the idea at full length.
Boldwood's had begun to be a troublesome image -- a
species of Daniel in her kingdom who persisted in
kneeling eastward when reason and common sense said
that he might just as well follow suit with the rest,
and afford her the official glance of admiration which
cost nothing at all
. She was far from being seriously
concerned about his nonconformity. Still, it was faintly
depressing that the most dignified and valuable man in
the parish should withhold his eyes, and that a girl
like Liddy should talk about it. So Liddy's idea was
at first rather harassing than piquant.





Chapter 14

EFFECT OF THE LETTER -- SUNRISE


Here the bachelor's gaze was continually fastening itself,
till the large red seal became as a blot of blood on the
retina of his eye
; and as he ate and drank he still read
in fancy the words thereon, although they were too remote
for his sight --

"MARRY ME."

The pert injunction was like those crystal substances which,
colourless themselves, assume the tone of objects about them.
Here, in the quiet of Boldwood's parlour, where everything
that was not grave was extraneous, and where the atmosphere
was that of a Puritan Sunday lasting all the week, the letter
and its dictum changed their tenor from the thoughtlessness
of their origin to a deep solemnity, imbibed from their
accessories now.

   Since the receipt of the missive in the morning,
Boldwood had felt the symmetry of his existence to
be slowly getting distorted in the direction of an
ideal passion. The disturbance was as the first
floating weed to Columbus -- the contemptibly
little suggesting possibilities of the infinitely
great.





Somebody's -- some woman's -- hand had travelled softly
over the paper bearing his name; her unrevealed eyes had
watched every curve as she formed it; her brain had seen
him in imagination the while
. Why should she have imagined
him? Her mouth -- were the lips red or pale, plump or
creased? -- had curved itself to a certain expression as
the pen went on -- the corners had moved with all their
natural tremulousness: what had been the expression?
   The vision of the woman writing, as a supplement to the
words written, had no individuality
. She was a misty
shape, and well she might be, considering that her
original was at that moment sound asleep and oblivious
of all love and letter-writing under the sky
. Whenever
Boldwood dozed she took a form, and comparatively ceased
to be a vision: when he awoke there was the letter
justifying the dream.





Boldwood looked, as he had a hundred times the
preceding day, at the insistent red seal: "Marry
me," he said aloud.
   The solemn and reserved yeoman again closed
the letter, and stuck it in the frame of the glass.
In doing so he caught sight of his reflected
features, wan in expression, and insubstantial
in form. He saw how closely compressed was his
mouth, and that his eyes were wide-spread and
vacant. Feeling uneasy and dissatisfied with
himself for this nervous excitability, he
returned to bed.





Boldwood was listlessly noting how the frost had hardened
and glazed the surface of the snow, till it shone in the
red eastern light with the polish of marble; how, in some
portions of the slope, withered grass-bents, encased in
icicles, bristled through the smooth wan coverlet in the
twisted and curved shapes of old Venetian glass; and how
the footprints of a few birds, which had hopped over the
snow whilst it lay in the state of a soft fleece, were now
frozen to a short permanency.




At this moment, on the ridge, up against the blazing
sky, a figure was visible, like the black snuff in
the midst of a candle-flame. Then it moved and began
to bustle about vigorously from place to place,
carrying square skeleton masses, which were riddled
by the same rays.


Chapter 15

A MORNING MEETING -- THE LETTER AGAIN


The maltster's lack of teeth appeared not to sensibly
diminish his powers as a mill. He had been without them
for so many years that toothlessness was felt less to be
a defect than hard gums an acquisition
. Indeed, he seemed
to approach the grave as a hyperbolic curve approaches a
straight line -- less directly as he got nearer, till it
was doubtful if he would ever reach it at all.


--------------------------------------------------------------

"And how is she getting on without a baily?" the maltster
inquired. Henery shook his head, and smiled one of the bitter
smiles
, dragging all the flesh of his forehead into a
corrugated heap in the centre.

"She'll rue it -- surely, surely!" he said "Benjy Pennyways
were not a true man or an honest baily -- as big a betrayer
as Joey Iscariot himself. But to think she can carr' on alone!"
He allowed his head to swing laterally three or four times in
silence. "Never in all my creeping up -- never!"

This was recognized by all as the conclusion of some gloomy
speech which had been expressed in thought alone during the
shake of the head; Henery meanwhile retained several marks of
despair upon his face, to imply that they would be required
for use again directly he should go on speaking
.

"All will be ruined, and ourselves too, or there's no meat
in gentlemen's houses!" said Mark Clark.

"A headstrong maid, that's what she is -- and won't listen
to no advice at all. Pride and vanity have ruined many a
cobbler's dog. Dear, dear, when I think o' it, I sorrows
like a man in travel!"

"True, Henery, you do, I've heard ye," said Joseph Poorgrass
in a voice of thorough attestation, and with a wire-drawn
smile of misery.

"'Twould do a martel man no harm to have what's under her
bonnet,
" said Billy Smallbury, who had just entered, bearing
his one tooth before him. "She can spaik real language, and
must have some sense somewhere
. Do ye foller me?"

"I do, I do; but no baily -- I deserved that place," wailed
Henery, signifying wasted genius by gazing blankly at visions
of a high destiny apparently visible to him on Billy Smallbury's
smock-frock
.

--------------------------------------------------------------

[the word J A M E S appears here with the "J" and "E"
printed as mirror images]

"And how Farmer James would cuss, and call thee a fool,
wouldn't he, Joseph, when 'a seed his name looking so
inside-out-like?
" continued Matthew Moon with feeling.

"Ay -- 'a would," said Joseph, meekly. "But, you see, I
wasn't so much to blame, for them J's and E's be such
trying sons o' witches for the memory to mind whether
they face backward or forward
; and I always had such a
forgetful memory, too."

"'Tis a very bad affliction for ye, being such a man of
calamities in other ways."


--------------------------------------------------------------

Oak drew a slow breath, looked sadly into the bright ashpit,
and seemed lost in thoughts not of the most hopeful hue.
  The genial warmth of the fire now began to stimulate the
nearly lifeless lambs to bleat and move their limbs briskly
upon the hay, and to recognize for the first time the fact
that they were
born.



Chapter 16

ALL SAINTS' AND ALL SOULS'


The silence grew to be a noticeable thing as the minutes
went on, and nobody else appeared, and not a soul moved.
The rattle of the quarter-jack again from its niche, its
blows for three-quarters, its fussy retreat, were almost
painfully abrupt, and caused many of the congregation to
start palpably.





Some persons may have noticed how extraordinarily
the striking of quarters. seems to quicken the flight
of time
. It was hardly credible that the jack had not
got wrong with the minutes when the rattle began again,
the puppet emerged, and the four quarters were struck
fitfully as before: One could almost be positive that
there was a malicious leer upon the hideous creature's
face, and a mischievous delight in its twitchings. Then,
followed the dull and remote resonance of the twelve heavy
strokes in the tower above.



Chapter 17

IN THE MARKET-PLACE

Material causes and emotional effects are not to be
arranged in regular equation. The result from capital
employed in the production of any movement of a mental
nature is sometimes as
tremendous as the cause itself
is absurdly
minute. When women are in a freakish mood,
their usual intuition, either from carelessness or
inherent defect, seemingly fails to teach them this,
and hence it was that Bathsheba was fated to be
astonished today.





To the best of his judgement neither nature nor art
could improve this perfect one of an imperfect many.
His heart began to move within him. Boldwood, it must
be remembered, though forty years of age, had never
before inspected a woman with the very centre and
force of his glance; they had struck upon all his
senses at wide angles.





She was at this moment coolly dealing with a dashing
young
farmer, adding up accounts with him as indifferently
as if his face had been the pages of a ledger. It was evident
that such a nature as his had no attraction for a woman of
Bathsheba's taste. But Boldwood grew hot down to his hands
with an
incipient jealousy; he trod for the first time the
threshold of "the injured lover's hell."
His first impulse
was to go and thrust himself between them. This could be
done, but only in one way -- by asking to see a sample of
her corn. Boldwood renounced the idea. He could not make
the request; it was debasing loveliness to ask it to buy
and sell, and jarred with his conceptions of her.





Being a woman with some good sense in reasoning on
subjects wherein her heart was not involved, Bathsheba
genuinely repented that a freak which had owed its
existence as much to Liddy as to herself, should ever
have been undertaken, to disturb the placidity of a
man she respected too highly to deliberately tease.



Chapter 18

BOLDWOOD IN MEDITATION -- REGRET

   The phases of Boldwood's life were ordinary enough, but his was
not an ordinary nature. That stillness, which struck casual
observers more than anything else in his character and habit,
and seemed so precisely like the rest of inanition, may have
been the perfect balance of enormous antagonistic forces --
positives and negatives in fine adjustment. His equilibrium
disturbed, he was in extremity at once. If an emotion possessed
him at all, it ruled him; a feeling not mastering him was
entirely latent. Stagnant or rapid, it was never slow. He was
always hit mortally, or he was missed.
   He had no light and careless touches in his constitution,
either
for good or for evil
. Stern in the outlines of action, mild in
the details, he was serious throughout all. He saw no absurd sides
to the follies of life, and thus, though not quite companionable
in the eyes of merry men and scoffers, and those to whom all
things show life as a jest, he was not intolerable to the earnest
and those acquainted with grief. Being a man-who read all the dramas
of life seriously, if he failed to please when they were comedies,
there was no frivolous treatment to reproach him for when they
chanced to end tragically.
   Bathsheba was far from dreaming that the dark and silent shape
upon which she had so carelessly thrown a seed was a hotbed of
tropic intensity
. Had she known Boldwood's moods, her blame would
have been fearful, and the stain upon her heart ineradicable. Moreover,
had she known her present power for good or evil over this man, she
would have trembled at her responsibility. Luckily for her present,
unluckily for her future tranquillity, her understanding had not yet
told her what Boldwood was. Nobody knew entirely; for though it
was possible to form guesses concerning his wild capabilities from
old floodmarks faintly visible, he had never been seen at the high
tides which caused them.





The vegetable world begins to move and swell and the saps
to rise, till in the completestsilence of lone gardens and
trackless plantations, where everything seems helpless and
still after the bond and slavery of frost, there are bustlings,
strainings, united thrusts, and pulls-all-together, in comparison
with which the powerful tugs of cranes and pulleys in a noisy
city are but pigmy efforts
.




When Bathsheba's figure shone upon the farmer's eyes it
lighted him up as the moon lights up a great tower.A
man's body is as the shell, or the tablet, of his soul
,
as he is reserved or ingenuous, overflowing or self-contained.
There was a change in Boldwood's exterior from its former
impassibleness; and his face showed that he was now living
outside his defences for the first time, and with a fearful
sense of exposure.It is the usual experience of strong
natures when they love
.




The insulation of his heart by reserve during these many
years, without a channel of any kind for disposable emotion,
had worked its effect
. It has been observed more than once
that the causes of love are chiefly subjective, and Boldwood
was a living testimony to the truth of the proposition. No
mother existed to absorb his devotion, no sister for his
tenderness, no idle ties for sense.
He became surcharged
with the compound, which was genuine lover's love.





   Farmer Boldwood had read the pantomime denoting that
they were aware of his presence, and the perception was
as too much light turned upon his new sensibility. He was
still in the road, and by moving on he hoped that neither
would recognize that he had originally intended to enter
the field. He passed by with an utter and overwhelming
sensation of ignorance, shyness, and doubt. Perhaps in
her manner there were signs that she wished to see him
-- perhaps not -- he could not read a woman. The cabala
of this erotic philosophy seemed to consist of the subtlest
meanings expressed in misleading ways
. Every turn, look,
word, and accent contained a mystery quite distinct from
its obvious import, and not one had ever been pondered by
him until now.
   As for Bathsheba, she was not deceived into the belief
that Farmer Boldwood had walked by on business or in idleness.
She collected the probabilities of the case, and concluded
that she was herself responsible for Boldwood's appearance
there. It troubled her much to see what a great flame a
little wildfire was likely to kindle
. Bathsheba was no
schemer for marriage, nor was she deliberately a trifler
with the affections of men, and a censor's experience on
seeing an actual flirt after observing her would have been
a feeling of surprise that Bathsheba could be so different
from such a one, and yet so like what a flirt is supposed
to be.




Chapter 19

THE SHEEP-WASHING -- THE OFFER

The great aids to idealization in love were present here:
occasional observation of her from a distance, and the absence
of
social intercourse with her -- visual familiarity, oral
strangeness
. The smaller human elements were kept out of
sight; the pettinesses that enter so largely into all earthly
living and doing were disguised by the accident of lover and
loved-one
not being on visiting terms; and there was hardly
awakened a thought in Boldwood that sorry household realities
appertained to her, or that she, like all others, had moments
of commonplace, when to be least plainly seen was to be most
prettily remembered. Thus a mild sort of apotheosis took place
in his fancy, whilst she still lived and breathed within his
own horizon, a troubled creature like himself
.





The sheep-washing pool was a perfectly circular basin of
brickwork in the meadows, full of the clearest water. To
birds on the wing its glassy surface, reflecting the light
sky, must have been visible for miles around as a glistening
Cyclops' eye in a green face
. The grass about the margin at
this season was a sight to remember long -- in a minor sort
of way. Its activity in sucking the moisture from the rich
damp sod was almost a process observable by the eye.
The
outskirts of this level water-meadow were diversified by
rounded and hollow pastures,
where just now every flower
that was not a buttercup was a daisy. The river slid along
noiselessly as a shade, the swelling reeds and sedge forming
a flexible palisade upon its moist brink
.





Boldwood went meditating down the slopes with his eyes on his
boots, which
the yellow pollen from the buttercups had bronzed
in artistic gradations
.





Cainy Ball and Joseph, who performed this latter operation, were
if possible wetter than the rest;
they resembled dolphins under a
fountain, every protuberance and angle of their clothes dribbling
forth a small
rill.




She trembled, turned, and said "Good morning." His tone was
so utterly removed from all she had expected as a beginning.
It was lowness and quiet accentuated: an emphasis of deep
meanings, their form, at the same time, being scarcely expressed
.
Silence has sometimes a remarkable power of showing itself as
the disembodied soul of feeling wandering without its carcase,
and it is then more impressive than speech
. In the same way, to
say a little is often to tell more than to say a great deal
.
Boldwood told everything in that word.


--------------------------------------------------------------

But we all change, and my change, in this matter, came with
seeing you
. I have felt lately, more and more, that my present
way of living is bad in every respect. Beyond all things, I
want you as my wife."

"I feel, Mr. Boldwood, that though I respect you much, I do
not feel -- what would justify me to -- in accepting your
offer," she stammered.

This giving back of dignity for dignity seemed to open the
sluices of feeling
that Boldwood had as yet kept closed.

"My life is a burden without you," he exclaimed, in a low
voice. "I want you -- I want you to let me say I love you
again and again!"

Bathsheba answered nothing, and the horse upon her arm seemed
so impressed that instead of cropping the herbage she looked up
.


--------------------------------------------------------------

"I wish I could say courteous flatteries to you," the farmer
continued in an easier tone, "and put my rugged feeling into
a graceful shape
: but I have neither power nor patience to
learn such things. I want you for my wife -- so wildly that
no other feeling can abide in me;"


--------------------------------------------------------------

"I -- I didn't -- I know I ought never to have dreamt of
sending that valentine -- forgive me, sir -- it was a wanton
thing which no woman with any self-respect should have done.
If you will only pardon my thoughtlessness, I promise never
to ----"

"No, no, no. Don't say thoughtlessness! Make me think it
was something more -- that it was a sort of prophetic instinct
-- the beginning of a feeling that you would like me. You
torture me to say it was done in thoughtlessness -- I never
thought of it in that light, and I can't endure it.


--------------------------------------------------------------

"I have not fallen in love with you, Mr. Boldwood -- certainly
I must say that." She allowed a very small smile to creep for
the first time over her serious face in saying this, and the
white row of upper teeth, and keenly-cut lips already noticed,
suggested an idea of heartlessness, which was immediately
contradicted by the pleasant
eyes.

--------------------------------------------------------------

"I rather cling; to the chaise, because it is he same
my poor father and mother drove, but if you don't like
it I will sell it, and you shall have a pony-carriage
of your own. I cannot say how far above every other idea
and object on earth you seem to me -- nobody knows -- God
only knows -- how much you are to me!"


Bathsheba's heart was young, and it swelled with sympathy
for the deep-natured man who spoke so simply.

"Don't say it! don't! I cannot bear you to feel so much,
and me to feel nothing
. And I am afraid they will notice
us, Mr. Boldwood. Will you let the matter rest now? I cannot
think collectedly. I did not know you were going to say this
to me. Oh, I am wicked to have made you suffer so!" She was
frightened as well as agitated at his vehemence.


--------------------------------------------------------------

"I may think of you?"

"Yes, I suppose you may think of me."

"And hope to obtain you?"

"No -- do not hope! Let us go on."

"I will call upon you again to-morrow."

"No -- please not. Give me time."

"Yes -- I will give you any time," he said earnestly and
gratefully. "I am happier now."

"No -- I beg you! Don't be happier if happiness only comes
from my agreeing. Be neutral, Mr. Boldwood! I must think."

"I will wait," he said.

And then she turned away. Boldwood dropped his gaze to the
ground
, and stood long like a man who did not know where he
was. Realities then returned upon him like the pain of a wound
received in an excitement which eclipses it
, and he, too, then
went on.

--------------------------------------------------------------

Chapter 20

PERPLEXITY -- GRINDING THE SHEARS -- A QUARREL

Bathsheba's was an impulsive nature under a deliberative aspect.
An Elizabeth in brain and a Mary Stuart in spirit, she often performed
actions of the greatest temerity with a manner of extreme discretion.
Many of her thoughts were perfect syllogisms; unluckily they always
remained thoughts. Only a few were irrational assumptions; but,
unfortunately, they were the ones which most frequently grew into
deeds
.




All the surrounding cottages were more or less scenes of the
same operation; the scurr of whetting spread into the sky from
all parts of the village as from an armoury previous to a
campaign. Peace and war kiss each other at their hours of
preparation -- sickles, scythes, shears, and pruning-hooks,
ranking with swords, bayonets, and lances, in their common
necessity for point and edge
.


--------------------------------------------------------------

"They must have heard our conversation," she continued.

"Well, then, Bathsheba!" said Oak, stopping the handle,
and gazing into her face with astonishment.

"Miss Everdene, you mean," she said, with dignity.

"I mean this, that if Mr. Boldwood really spoke of marriage,
I bain't going to tell a story and say he didn't to please you.
I have already tried to please you too much for my own good!"

Bathsheba regarded him with round-eyed perplexity. She did not
know whether to pity him for disappointed love of her, or to be
angry with him for having got over it -- his tone being ambiguous.

"I said I wanted you just to mention that it was not true I was
going to be married to him," she murmured, with a slight decline
in her assurance.

"I can say that to them if you wish, Miss Everdene. And I could
likewise give an opinion to 'ee on what you have done."

"I daresay. But I don't want your opinion."


I suppose not," said Gabriel bitterly, and going on with his
turning, his words rising and falling in a regular swell and
cadence as he stooped or rose with the winch, which directed
them, according to his position, perpendicularly into the earth,
or horizontally along the garden, his eyes being fixed on a
leaf upon the ground.


--------------------------------------------------------------

Thoroughly convinced of the impossibility of his own suit, a
high resolve constrained him not to injure that of another.
This is a lover's most stoical virtue, as the lack of it is
a lover's most venial sin. Knowing he would reply truly she
asked the question, painful as she must have known the subject
would be. Such is the selfishness of some charming women.
Perhaps it was some excuse for her thus torturing honesty to
her own advantage
, that she had absolutely no other sound
judgment within easy reach.

"Well, what is your opinion of my conduct," she said, quietly.

"That it is unworthy of any thoughtful, and meek, and comely
woman."

In an instant Bathsheba's face coloured with the angry crimson
of a danby sunset. But she forbore to utter this feeling, and

the reticence of her tongue only made the loquacity of her face
the more noticeable
.


--------------------------------------------------------------

"On the contrary, my opinion of you is so low, that I
see in your abuse the praise of discerning people!"

"I am glad you don't mind it, for I said it honestly
and with every serious meaning."

"I see. But, unfortunately, when you try not to speak
in jest you are amusing -- just as when you wish to
avoid seriousness you sometimes say a sensible word."

It was a hard hit, but Bathsheba had unmistakably lost
her temper, and on that account Gabriel had never in
his life kept his own better.


--------------------------------------------------------------

A woman may be treated with a bitterness which is sweet
to her, and with a rudeness which is not offensive.
Bathsheba would have submitted to an indignant chastisement
for her levity had Gabriel protested that he was loving her
at the same time; the impetuosity of passion unrequited is
bearable, even if it stings and anathematizes there is a
triumph in the humiliation, and a tenderness in the strife.
This was what she had been expecting, and what she had not
got. To be lectured because the lecturer saw her in the cold
morning light of open-shuttered disillusion
was exasperating.


Chapter 21

TROUBLES IN THE FOLD -- A MESSAGE

The most vigorous expression of a resolution does not
always coincide with the greatest vigour of the resolution
itself. It is often flung out as a sort of prop to support
a decaying conviction which, whilst strong, required no
enunciation to prove it so. The "No, I won't" of Bathsheba
meant virtually, "I think I must."

--------------------------------------------------------------

Bathsheba turned aside, her eyes full of tears. The strait
she was in through pride and shrewishness could not be disguised
longer: she burst out crying bitterly; they all saw it; and
she attempted no further concealment.

"I wouldn't cry about it, miss," said William Smallbury,
compassionately. "Why not ask him softer like? I'm sure he'd
come then. Gable is a true man in that way."


Bathsheba checked her grief and wiped her eyes. "Oh, it is a
wicked cruelty to me -- it is -- it is!" she murmured. "And
he drives me to do what I wouldn't; yes, he does! -- Tall,
come indoors."

After this collapse, not very dignified for the head of an
establishment, she went into the house, Tall at her heels.
Here she sat down and hastily scribbled a note between the
small convulsive sobs of convalescence which follow a fit
of crying as a ground-swell follows a storm
. The note was
none the less polite for being written in a hurry. She held
it at a distance, was about to fold it, then added these
words at the bottom: --


"DO NOT DESERT ME, GABRIEL!"

--------------------------------------------------------------

The case, however, was a promising one. Gabriel was not
angry: he was simply neutral, although her first command
had been so haughty. Such imperiousness would have damned
a little less beauty; and on the other hand, such beauty
would have redeemed a little less imperiousness.


--------------------------------------------------------------

Gabriel looked at her. It was a moment when a woman's
eyes and tongue tell distinctly opposite tales
. Bathsheba
looked full of gratitude, and she said: --

"Oh, Gabriel, how could you serve me so unkindly!"

Such a tenderly-shaped reproach for his previous delay was
the one speech in the language that he could pardon for not
being
commendation of his readiness now.

Gabriel murmured a confused reply, and hastened on. She knew
from the look which sentence in her note had brought him
.

--------------------------------------------------------------

Chapter 22

THE GREAT BARN AND THE SHEEP-SHEARERS

Men thin away to insignificance and oblivion quite as
often by not making the most of good spirits when they
have them as by lacking good spirits when they are
indispensable
. Gabriel lately, for the first time since
his prostration by misfortune, had been independent in
thought and vigorous in action to a marked extent --
conditions which, powerless without an opportunity as
an opportunity without them is barren
, would have given
him a sure lift upwards when the favourable conjunction
should have occurred. But this incurable loitering beside
Bathsheba Everdene stole his time ruinously. The spring
tides were going by without floating him off, and the
neap might soon come which could not
.





It was the first day of June, and the sheep-shearing
season culminated, the landscape, even to the leanest
pasture, being all health and colour.
Every green was
young, every pore was open, and every stalk was swollen
with racing currents of juice. God was palpably present
in the country, and the devil had gone with the world
to town
. Flossy catkins of the later kinds, fern-sprouts
like bishops' croziers, the square-headed moschatel,the
odd cuckoo-pint, -- like an apoplectic saint in a niche
of
malachite, -- snow-white ladies'-smocks, the toothwort,
approximating to human flesh, the enchanter's night-shade,
and the black-petaled doleful-bells, were among the
quainter objects of the vegetable world in and about
Weatherbury at this teeming time;





None of these were clothed to any extent worth mentioning,
each appearing to have hit in the matter of raiment the
decent mean between a high and low caste Hindoo. An
angularity of lineament, and a fixity of facial machinery

in general, proclaimed that serious work was the order of
the day.





One could say about this barn, what could hardly be
said of either the church or the castle, akin to it
in age and style, that the purpose which had dictated
its original erection was the same with that to which
it was still applied.
Unlike and superior to either of
those two typical remnants of mediaevalism, the old barn
embodied practices which had suffered no mutilation at
the hands of time. Here at least the spirit of the ancient
builders was at one with the spirit of the modern beholder.
Standing before this abraded pile, the eye regarded its
present usage, the mind dwelt upon its past history, with
a satisfied sense of functional continuity throughout --
a feeling almost of gratitude, and quite of pride, at the
permanence of the idea which had heaped it up. The fact
that four centuries had neither proved it to be founded
on a mistake, inspired any hatred of its purpose, nor given
rise to any reaction that had battered it down, invested
this simple grey effort of old minds with a repose, if not
a grandeur, which a too curious reflection was apt to
disturb in its ecclesiastical and military compeers.
For
once medievalism and modernism had a common stand-point.
The lanceolate windows, the time- eaten arch-stones and
chamfers, the orientation of the axis, the misty chestnut
work of the rafters, referred to no exploded fortifying
art or worn-out religious creed.
The defence and salvation
of the body by daily bread is still a study, a religion,
and a desire.





Here the shearers knelt, the sun slanting in upon
their bleached shirts, tanned arms, and the polished
shears they flourished, causing these to bristle with
a thousand rays
strong enough to blind a weak- eyed
man
. Beneath them a captive sheep lay panting, quickening
its pants as misgiving merged in terror, till it quivered
like the hot landscape outside.





This picture of to-day in its frame of four hundred years
ago
did not produce that marked contrast between ancient
and modern which is implied by the contrast of date. In
comparison with cities, Weatherbury was immutable. The
citizen's THEN is the rustic's NOW. In London, twenty or
thirty-years ago are old times; in Paris ten years, or
five; in Weatherbury three or four score years were
included in the mere present, and nothing less than a
century set a mark on its face or tone. Five decades
hardly modified the cut of a gaiter, the embroidery of
a smock-frock
, by the breadth of a hair. Ten generations
failed to alter the turn of a single phrase
. In these
Wessex nooks the busy outsider's ancient times are only
old; his old times are still new; his present is futurity.


--------------------------------------------------------------

"She blushes at the insult," murmured Bathsheba, watching
the pink flush which arose and overspread the neck and
shoulders of the ewe where they were left bare by the
clicking shears -- a flush which was enviable, for its
delicacy, by many queens of coteries, and would have been
creditable, for its promptness, to any woman in the world.

Poor Gabriel's soul was fed with a luxury of content by
having her over him, her eyes critically regarding his
skilful shears, which apparently were going to gather up
a piece of the flesh at every close, and yet never did

so. Like Guildenstern, Oak was happy in that he was not
over happy. He had no wish to converse with her: that
his bright lady and himself formed one group, exclusively
their own, and containing no others in the world, was enough.

So the chatter was all on her side. There is a loquacity
that tells nothing, which was Bathsheba's; and there is a
silence which says much: that was Gabriel's.


--------------------------------------------------------------

The clean, sleek creature arose from its fleece -- how perfectly
like Aphrodite rising from the foam should have been seen to be
realized -- looking startled and shy at the loss of its garment,
which lay on the floor in one soft cloud, united throughout, the
portion visible being the inner surface only, which, never before
exposed, was white as snow, and without flaw or blemish of the
minutest kind.





Then up comes Maryann; throws the loose locks into the middle
of the fleece, rolls it up, and carries it into the background
as three-and-a-half pounds of unadulterated warmth for the winter
enjoyment of persons unknown and far away
, who will, however,
never experience the superlative comfort derivable from the wool
as it here exists,
new and pure -- before the unctuousness of
its nature whilst in a living state has
dried, stiffened, and
been
washed out -- rendering it just now as superior to anything
woolen as cream is superior to milk-and-water.





Oak's belief that she was going to stand pleasantly by
and time him through another performance was painfully
interrupted by Farmer Boldwood's appearance in the extremest
corner of the barn. Nobody seemed to have perceived his entry,
but there he certainly was. Boldwood always carried with him
a social atmosphere of his own
, which everybody felt who came
near him; and the talk, which Bathsheba's presence had somewhat
suppressed, was now totally suspended.
   He crossed over towards Bathsheba, who turned to greet him
with a carriage of perfect ease. He spoke to her in low tones,
and she instinctively modulated her own to the same pitch, and
her voice ultimately even caught the inflection of his. She was
far from having a wish to appear mysteriously connected with him;
but woman at the impressionable age gravitates to the larger
body
not only in her choice of words, which is apparent every
day, but even in her shades of tone and humour, when the
influence is great.





She became more or less red in the cheek, the blood wavering
in uncertain flux and reflux over the sensitive space between
ebb and flood. Gabriel sheared on, constrained and sad.





To an outsider there was not much to complain of in
this remark; but to Oak, who knew Bathsheba to be well
aware that she herself was the cause of the poor ewe's
wound
, because she had wounded the ewe's shearer in a --
still more vital part, it had a sting which the abiding
sense of his inferiority to both herself and Boldwood
was not calculated to heal. But a manly resolve to
recognize boldly that he had no longer a lover's interest
in her
, helped him occasionally to conceal a feeling.





Pestilent moods had come, and teased away his quiet. Bathsheba
had shown indications of anointing him above his fellows by
installing him as the bailiff that the farm imperatively required.
He did not covet the post relatively to the farm: in relation to
herself, as beloved by him and unmarried to another, he had coveted
it. His readings of her seemed now to be vapoury and indistinct.



Chapter 23

EVENTIDE -- A SECOND DECLARATION

This evening Bathsheba was unusually excited, her red cheeks and lips
contrasting lustrously with the mazy skeins of her shadowy hair
.


--------------------------------------------------------------

"Faith, so she is; well, I must suffer it! ... Just eye my features,
and see if the tell-tale blood overheats me much, neighbours?"

"No, yer blushes be quite reasonable
," said Coggan.

"I always tries to keep my colours from rising when a beauty's eyes
get fixed on me," said Joseph, differently; "but if so be 'tis willed
they do, they must."

"Now, Joseph, your song, please," said Bathsheba, from the window.

"Well, really, ma'am," he replied, in a yielding tone, "I don't know
what to say. It would be a poor plain ballet of my own composure."

"Hear, hear!" said the supper-party.

Poorgrass, thus assured, trilled forth a flickering yet commendable
piece of sentiment


--------------------------------------------------------------

But during this rendering young Bob Coggan exhibited one of those
anomalies which will afflict little people when other persons are
particularly serious: in trying to check his laughter, he pushed
down his throat as much of the tablecloth as he could get hold of,
when,
after continuing hermetically sealed for a short time, his
mirth burst out through his nose.
Joseph perceived it, and with
hectic cheeks of indignation instantly ceased singing. Coggan
boxed Bob's ears immediately.

"Go on, Joseph -- go on, and never mind the young scamp," said
Coggan. "'Tis a very catching ballet. Now then again -- the next
bar; I'll help ye to flourish up the shrill notes where yer wind
is rather wheezy:
--





It was still the beaming time of evening, though night was stealthily
making itself visible low down upon the ground,the western lines of
light raking the earth without alighting upon it to any extent, or
illuminating the dead levels at all. The sun had crept round the tree
as a last effort before death
, and then began to sink, the shearers'
lower parts becoming steeped in embrowning twilight, whilst their heads
and shoulders were still enjoying day, touched with a yellow of
self-sustained brilliancy that seemed inherent rather than acquired
.

The sun went down in an ochreous mist;





In addition to the dulcet piping of Gabriel's flute, Boldwood
supplied a bass in his customary profound voice, uttering his
notes so softly, however, as to abstain entirely from making
anything like an ordinary duet of the song; they rather formed
a rich unexplored shadow, which threw her tones into relief
.





Bathsheba knew more of him now; he had entirely bared his heart
before her, even until he had almost worn in her eyes the sorry
look of a grand bird without the feathers that make it grand
.
She had been awestruck at her past temerity, and was struggling
to make amends without thinking whether the sin quite deserved
the penalty she was schooling herself to pay
. To have brought
all this about her ears was terrible; but after a while the
situation was not without a fearful joy. The facility with
which even the most timid woman sometimes acquire a relish
for the dreadful when that is amalgamated with a little
triumph, is marvellous
.



Chapter 24

THE SAME NIGHT -- THE FIR PLANTATIO

Here the only sounds disturbing the stillness were steady
munchings of many mouths, and stentorian breathings from
all but invisible noses
, ending in snores and puffs like
the blowing of bellows slowly. Then the munching would
recommence
, when the lively imagination might assist the
eye to discern a group of pink-white nostrils, shaped as
caverns, and very clammy and humid on their surfaces,
not
exactly pleasant to the touch until one got used to them
;
the mouths beneath having a great partiality for closing
upon any loose end of Bathsheba's apparel which came within
reach of their tongues. Above each of these a still keener
vision suggested a brown forehead and two staring though
not unfriendly eyes, and above all a pair of whitish
crescent- shaped horns like two particularly new moons,
an occasional stolid "moo!" proclaiming beyond the shade
of a doubt that these phenomena were the features and persons
of Daisy, Whitefoot, Bonny-lass, Jolly-O, Spot, Twinkle-eye,
etc., etc
. -- the respectable dairy of Devon cows belonging
to Bathsheba aforesaid.





The man to whom she was hooked was brilliant in brass and scarlet.
He was a soldier. His sudden appearance was to darkness what the
sound of a trumpet is to silense. Gloom, the genius loci at all
times hitherto, was now totally overthrown, less by the lantern-light
than by what the lantern lighted
. The contrast of this revelation
with her anticipations of some sinister figure in sombre garb was
so great that it had upon her the effect of a fairy transformation.


--------------------------------------------------------------

"Thank you for the sight of such a beautiful face!" said
the young sergeant, without ceremony.

She coloured with embarrassment. "'Twas unwillingly shown,"
she replied, stiffly, and with as much dignity -- which was
very little -- as she could infuse into a position of captivity.

"I like you the better for that incivility, miss," he said.

"I should have liked -- I wish -- you had never shown yourself
to me by intruding here!" She pulled again, and the gathers of
her dress began to give way like liliputian musketry.

"I deserve the chastisement your words give me. But why should
such a fair and dutiful girl have such an aversion to her father's
sex?
"

"Go on your way, please."

"What, Beauty, and drag you after me? Do but look; I never saw such
a tangle
!"

"Oh, 'tis shameful of you; you have been making it worse on purpose
to keep me here -- you have!"

"Indeed, I don't think so," said the sergeant, with a merry twinkle.

"I tell you you have!" she exclaimed, in high temper. I insist upon
undoing it. Now, allow me!"

"Certainly, miss; I am not of steel." He added a sigh which had as
much archness in it as a sigh could possess without losing its nature
altogether.
"I am thankful for beauty, even when 'tis thrown to me
like a bone to a dog. These moments will be over too soon!
"

She closed her lips in a determined silence.


--------------------------------------------------------------

After all, how could a cheerful wearer of skirts be permanently
offended with the man? There are occasions when girls like
Bathsheba will put up with a great deal of unconventional
behaviour. When they want to be praised, which is often, when
they want to be mastered, which is sometimes; and when they
want no nonsense, which is seldom. Just now the first feeling
was in the ascendant with Bathsheba, with a dash of the second
.


Chapter 25

THE NEW ACQUAINTANCE DESCRIBED

He was a man to whom memories were an incumbrance, and anticipations
a superfluity. Simply feeling, considering, and caring for what was
before his eyes
, he was vulnerable only in the present. His outlook
upon time was as a transient flash of the eye now and then: that
projection of consciousness into days gone by and to come, which
makes the past a synonym for the pathetic and the future a word for
circumspection, was foreign to Troy. With him the past was yesterday;
the future, to-morrow; never, the day after.





He never passed the line which divides the spruce vices from
the ugly; and hence, though his morals had hardly been applauded,
disapproval of them had frequently been tempered with a smile
.
This treatment had led to his becoming a sort of regrater of other
men's gallantries, to his own aggrandizement as a Corinthian,
rather than to the moral profit of his hearers.



Chapter 26

SCENE ON THE VERGE OF THE HAY-MEAD

--------------------------------------------------------------

"Why? if I may ask without offence."

"Because I don't much want to thank you for anything."

"I am afraid I have made a hole with my tongue that my
heart will never mend
. O these intolerable times: that
ill-luck should follow a man for honestly telling a woman
she is beautiful! 'Twas the most I said -- you must own
that; and the least I could say -- that I own myself."

"There is some talk I could do without more easily than money."

"Indeed. That remark is a sort of digression."

"No. It means that I would rather have your room than your
company
."

"And I would rather have curses from you than kisses from any
other woman; so I'll stay here
."

Bathsheba was absolutely speechless. And yet she could not help
feeling that the assistance he was rendering forbade a harsh repulse.

"Well," continued Troy, "I suppose there is a praise which is
rudeness, and that may be mine. At the same time there is a
treatment which is injustice, and that may be yours. Because a
plain blunt man, who has never been taught concealment, speaks
out his mind without exactly intending it, he's to be snapped off
like the son of a sinner."

--------------------------------------------------------------

Half the pleasure of a feeling lies in being able to express it
on the spur of the moment, and I let out mine.
It would have been
just the same if you had been the reverse person -- ugly and old --
I should have exclaimed about it in the same way."

"How long is it since you have been so afflicted with strong feeling,
then?"

"Oh, ever since I was big enough to know loveliness from deformity."

"'Tis to be hoped your sense of the difference you speak of doesn't
stop at faces, but extends to morals as well
."

"I won't speak of morals or religion -- my own or anybody else's.
Though perhaps I should have been a very good Christian if you pretty
women hadn't made me an idolater
."

Bathsheba moved on to hide the irrepressible dimplings of merriment.
Troy followed, whirling his crop.

"But -- Miss Everdene -- you do forgive me?"

"Hardly."

"Why?"

"You say such things."

"I said you were beautiful, and I'll say so still; for, by -- so you are!
The most beautiful ever I saw, or may I fall dead this instant! Why, upon
my ----"

"Don't -- don't! I won't listen to you -- you are so profane!" she said,
in a restless state between distress at hearing him and a penchant to
hear more.

--------------------------------------------------------------

"But surely you must have been told by everybody of what everybody
notices? and you should take their words for it."

"They don't say so exactly."

"Oh yes, they must!"

"Well, I mean to my face, as you do," she went on, allowing herself
to be further lured into a conversation that intention had rigorously
forbidden.

"But you know they think so?"

"No -- that is -- I certainly have heard Liddy say they do, but ----"
She paused.

Capitulation -- that was the purport of the simple reply, guarded as
it was -- capitulation, unknown to herself. Never did a fragile tailless
sentence convey a more perfect meaning
. The careless sergeant smiled within
himself, and probably too the devil smiled from a loop-hole in Tophet, for
the moment was the turning-point of a career. Her tone and mien signified
beyond mistake that
the seed which was to lift the foundation had taken
root in the chink
: the remainder was a mere question of time and natural
changes.

"There the truth comes out!" said the soldier, in reply. "Never tell me that
a young lady can live in a buzz of admiration without knowing something about
it
.

--------------------------------------------------------------

"Qui aime bien chatie bien -- 'He chastens who loves well.' Do
you understand me?"

"Ah!" she replied, and there was even a little tremulousness in
the usually cool girl's voice; "if you can only fight half as
winningly as you can talk, you are able to make a pleasure of a
bayonet wound!
" And then poor Bathsheba instantly perceived her
slip in making this admission: in hastily trying to retrieve it,
she went from bad to worse. "Don't, however, suppose that I derive
any pleasure from what you tell me."

"I know you do not -- I know it perfectly," said Troy, with much
hearty conviction on the exterior of his face: and altering the
expression to moodiness; "when a dozen men are ready to speak
tenderly to you, and give the admiration you deserve without adding
the warning you need, it stands to reason that my poor rough-and-ready
mixture of praise and blame cannot convey much pleasure
. Fool as I may
be, I am not so conceited as to suppose that!"

"I think you -- are conceited, nevertheless," said Bathsheba, looking
askance at a reed she was fitfully pulling with one hand, having lately
grown feverish under the soldier's system of procedure -- not because
the nature of his cajolery was entirely unperceived, but because its
vigour was overwhelming.

--------------------------------------------------------------

"Keep it -- do, Miss Everdene -- keep it!" said the erratic
child of impulse. "The fact of your possessing it makes it
worth ten times as much to me. A more plebeian one will answer
my purpose just as well, and the pleasure of knowing whose
heart my old one beats against
-- well, I won't speak of that.
It is in far worthier hands than ever it has been in before."

"But indeed I can't have it!" she said, in a perfect simmer
of distress. "Oh, how can you do such a thing; that is if you
really mean it! Give me your dead father's watch, and such a
valuable one! You should not be so reckless, indeed, Sergeant
Troy!"

"I loved my father: good; but better, I love you more. That's
how I can do it," said the sergeant, with an intonation of such
exquisite fidelity to nature that it was evidently not all acted
now. Her beauty, which, whilst it had been quiescent, he had
praised in jest, had in its animated phases moved him to earnest;
and though his seriousness was less than she imagined, it was
probably more than he imagined himself.

Bathsheba was brimming with agitated bewilderment, and she said,
in half-suspicious accents of feeling, "Can it be! Oh, how can
it be, that you care for me, and so suddenly!"


Chapter 27

HIVING THE BEES

Bathsheba's eyes, shaded by one hand, were following the ascending
multitude against the unexplorable stretch of blue till they ultimately
halted by one of the unwieldy trees spoken of. A process somewhat
analogous to that of alleged formations of the universe, time and
times ago, was observable. The bustling swarm had swept the sky in a
scattered and uniform haze, which now thickened to a nebulous centre:
this glided on to a bough and grew still denser, till it formed a
solid black spot upon the light.




He looked such an extraordinary object in this guise that, flurried
as she was, she could not avoid laughing outright. It was the removal
of yet another stake from the palisade of cold manners which had kept
him off.




Men and boys who had peeped through chinks or over walls into
the barrack-yard returned with accounts of its being the most
flashing affair conceivable; accoutrements and weapons glistening
like stars -- here, there, around -- yet all by rule and compass.
So she said mildly what she felt strongly.

"Yes; I should like to see it very much."



Chapter 28

THE HOLLOW AMID THE FERNS

The hill opposite Bathsheba's dwelling extended, a mile off, into
an uncultivated tract of land, dotted at this season with tall
thickets of brake fern, plump and diaphanous from recent rapid
growth, and radiant in hues of clear and untainted green
.

At eight o'clock this midsummer evening, whilst the bristling ball
of gold in the west still swept the tips of the ferns with its long,
luxuriant rays, a soft brushing-by of garments might have been heard
among them
, and Bathsheba appeared in their midst, their soft,
feathery arms caressing her up to her shoulders
.


--------------------------------------------------------------

"The infantry have two most diabolical upward cuts, which
we are too humane to use. Like this -- three, four."

"How murderous and bloodthirsty!"

"They are rather deathy. Now I'll be more interesting,
and let you see some loose play -- giving all the cuts
and points, infantry and cavalry, quicker than lightning,
and as promiscuously -- with just enough rule to regulate
instinct and yet not to fetter it. You are my antagonist,
with this difference from real warfare, that I shall miss
you every time by one hair's breadth, or perhaps two. Mind
you don't flinch, whatever you do."

I'll be sure not to!" she said invincibly.

He pointed to about a yard in front of him.

Bathsheba's adventurous spirit was beginning to find some
grains of relish in these highly novel proceedings.


--------------------------------------------------------------

In an instant the atmosphere was transformed to Bathsheba's eyes.
Beams of light caught from the low sun's rays, above, around, in
front of her, well-nigh shut out earth and heaven -- all emitted
in the marvellous evolutions of Troy's reflecting blade, which
seemed everywhere at once, and yet nowhere specially
. These
circling gleams were accompanied by a keen rush that was almost a
whistling
-- also springing from all sides of her at once. In
short, she was enclosed in a firmament of light, and of sharp
hisses
, resembling a sky-full of meteors close at hand.





It may safely be asserted with respect to the closeness of his cuts,
that had it been possible for the edge of the sword to leave in the
air a
permanent substance wherever it flew past, the space left
untouched would have been almost a mould of Bathsheba's figure.

Behind the luminous streams of this aurora militaris, she could see
the hue of Troy's sword arm, spread in a scarlet haze over the space
covered by its motions, like a twanged harpstring, and behind all
Troy himself, mostly facing her; sometimes, to show the rear cuts,
half turned away, his eye nevertheless always keenly measuring her
breadth and outline, and his lips tightly closed in sustained effort.
Next, his movements lapsed slower, and she could see them individually.
The hissing of the sword had ceased, and he stopped entirely.

"That outer loose lock of hair wants tidying, he said, before she
had moved or spoken. "Wait: I'll do it for you."

An arc of silver shone on her right side: the sword had descended.
The lock droped to the ground.

"Bravely borne!" said Troy. "You didn't flinch a shade's thickness.
Wonderful in a woman!"

"It was because I didn't expect it. Oh, you have spoilt my hair!"


--------------------------------------------------------------

She shuddered. "I have been within an inch of my life, and
didn't know it!"

"More precisely speaking, you have been within half an inch
of being pared alive two hundred and ninety-five times."

"Cruel, cruel, 'tis of you!"

"You have been perfectly safe, nevertheless. My sword never
errs." And Troy returned the weapon to the scabbard.

Bathsheba, overcome by a hundred tumultuous feelings resulting
from the scene, abstractedly sat down on a tuft of heather.

"I must leave you now," said Troy, softly. "And I'll venture to
take and keep this in remembrance of you."

She saw him stoop to the grass, pick up the winding lock which
he had severed from her manifold tresses, twist it round his fingers,
unfasten a button in the breast of his coat, and carefully put it
inside. She felt powerless to withstand or deny him. He was altogether
too much for her, and Bathsheba seemed as one who, facing a reviving
wind, finds it blow so strongly that it stops the breath
. He drew near
and said, "I must be leaving you."

He drew nearer still. A minute later and she saw his scarlet form
disappear amid the ferny thicket
, almost in a flash, like a brand
swiftly waved.

That minute's interval had brought the blood beating into her face,
set her stinging as if aflame to the very hollows of her feet, and
enlarged emotion to a compass which quite swamped thought
. It had
brought upon her a stroke resulting, as did that of Moses in Horeb,
in a liquid stream -- here a stream of tears
. She felt like one who
has sinned a great sin.

The circumstance had been the gentle dip of Troy's mouth downwards
upon her own. He had kissed her
.



Chapter 29

PARTICULARS OF A TWILIGHT WALK

We now see the element of folly distinctly mingling with the many
varying particulars which made up the character of Bathsheba Everdene.
It was almost foreign to her intrinsic nature. Introduced as lymph on
the dart of Eros, it eventually permeated and coloured her whole
constitution.





Bathsheba was not conscious of guile in this matter. Though in
one sense a woman of the world
, it was, after all, that world of
daylight coteries and green carpets wherein cattle form the passing
crowd and winds the busy hum
; where a quiet family of rabbits or
hares lives on the other side of your party-wall, where your
neighbour is everybody in the tything, and where calculation
is confined to market-days. Of the fabricated tastes of good
fashionable society she knew but little, and of the formulated
self-indulgence of bad, nothing at all. Had her utmost thoughts
in this direction been distinctly worded (and by herself they
never were), they would only have amounted to such a matter as
that she felt her impulses to be pleasanter guides than her discretion.
Her love was entire as a child's, and though warm as summer it was
fresh as spring. Her culpability lay in her making no attempt to
control feeling by subtle and careful inquiry into consquences. She
could show others the steep and thorny way, but "reck'd not her own
rede,"

And Troy's deformities lay deep down from a woman's vision, whilst
his embellishments were upon the very surface; thus contrasting with
homely Oak, whose defects were patent to the blindest, and whose
virtues were as metals in a mine
.

--------------------------------------------------------------

Then she resumed rather tartly --

"I don't quite understand what you meant by saying that Mr.
Boldwood would naturally come to meet me."

I meant on account of the wedding which they say is likely
to take place between you and him, miss. Forgive my speaking
plainly."

"They say what is not true." she returned quickly. No marriage
is likely to take place between us."

Gabriel now put forth his unobscured opinion, for the moment
had come. "Well, Miss Everdene," he said, "putting aside what
people say, I never in my life saw any courting if his is not
a courting of you."

Bathsheba would probably have terminated the conversation
there and then by flatly forbidding the subject, had not her
conscious weakness of position allured her to palter and
argue in endeavours to better it.

--------------------------------------------------------------

"Then it appears to me that Sergeant Troy does not concern
us here," she said, intractably." Yet I must say that Sergeant
Troy is an educated man, and quite worthy of any woman. He
is well born."

"His being higher in learning and birth than the ruck o'
soldiers is anything but a proof of his worth. It show's
his course to be down'ard."

"I cannot see what this has to do with our conversation.
Mr. Troy's course is not by any means downward; and his
superiority IS a proof of his worth!"

--------------------------------------------------------------

This supreme instance of Troy's goodness fell upon Gabriel
ears like the thirteenth stroke of crazy clock
. It was not
only received with utter incredulity as regarded itself,
but threw a doubt on all the assurances that had preceded
it.

Oak was grieved to find how entirely she trusted him. He
brimmed with deep feeling as he replied in a steady voice,
the steadiness of which was spoilt by the palpableness of
his great effort to keep it so: --

"You know, mistress, that I love you, and shall love you
always. I only mention this to bring to your mind that at
any rate I would wish to do you no harm: beyond that I put
it aside. I have lost in the race for money and good things,
and I am not such a fool as to pretend to 'ee now I am poor,
and you have got altogether above me
. But Bathsheba, dear
mistress, this I beg you to consider -- that, both to keep
yourself well honoured among the workfolk, and in common
generosity to an honourable man who loves you as well as I,
you should be more discreet in your bearing towards this
soldier."

--------------------------------------------------------------


The pale lustre yet hanging in the north-western heaven was
sufficient to show that a sprig of ivy had grown from the wall
across the door to a length of more than a foot, delicately
tying the panel to the stone jamb. It was a decisive proof
that the door had not been opened at least since Troy came
back to Weatherbury.


Chapter 30

HOT CHEEKS AND TEARFUL EYES

Bathsheba burst out: "O Liddy, are you such a simpleton?
Can't you read riddles? Can't you see? Are you a woman
yourself?"

Liddy's clear eyes rounded with wonderment.

"Yes; you must be a blind thing, Liddy!" she said, in
reckless abandonment and grief. "Oh, I love him to very
distraction and misery and agony! Don't be frightened at
me, though perhaps I am enough to frighten any innocent
woman. Come closer -- closer." She put her arms round
Liddy's neck. "I must let it out to somebody; it is
wearing me away!


--------------------------------------------------------------

"He is not bad at all.... My poor life and heart, how weak I am!"
she moaned, in a relaxed, desultory way, heedless of Liddy's presence.
"Oh, how I wish I had never seen him! Lovingis misery for women
always. I shall never forgive God for making me a woman, and dearly
am I beginning to pay for the honour of owning a pretty face." She
freshened and turned to Liddy suddenly.


--------------------------------------------------------------

"Death's head himself shan't wring it from me, mistress,
if I've a mind to keep anything; and I'll always be your
friend," replied Liddy, emphatically, at the same time
bringing a few more tears into her own eyes, not from any
particular necessity, but from an artistic sense of making
herself in keeping with the remainder of the picture
, which
seems to influence women at such times. "I think God likes
us to be good friends, don't you?"

"Indeed I do."

"And, dear miss, you won't harry me and storm at me, will
you? because you seem to swell so tall as a lion then, and
it frightens me! Do you know, I fancy you would be a match
for any man when you are in one o' your takings."

"Never! do you?" said Bathsheba, slightly laughing, though
somewhat seriously alarmed by this Amazonian picture of
herself. "I hope I am not a bold sort of maid -- mannish
?"
she continued with some anxiety.

"Oh no, not mannish; but so almighty womanish that 'tis
getting on that way sometimes. Ah! miss," she said, after
having drawn her breath very sadly in and sent it very sadly
out, "I wish I had half your failing that way. 'Tis a great
protection to a poor maid in these illegit'mate days!"


Chapter 31

BLAME -- FURY


a timely thunder-shower, which had refined the air, and daintily
bathed the coat of the land, though all beneath was dry as ever.
Freshness was exhaled in an essence from the varied contours of
bank and hollow
, as if the earth breathed maiden breath; and the
pleased birds were hymning to the scene.





Those who have the power of reproaching in silence may find it a
means more effective than words. There are accents in the eye which
are not on the tongue, and more tales come from pale lips than can
enter an ear
. It is both the grandeur and the pain of the remoter
moods that they avoid the pathway of sound. Boldwood's look was
unanswerable.


--------------------------------------------------------------

Bathsheba was unable to direct her will into any definite groove
for freeing herself from this fearfully awkward position. She confusedly
said, "Good evening," and was moving on. Boldwood walked up to her
heavily and dully.

"Bathsheba -- darling -- is it final indeed?"

"Indeed it is."

"Oh, Bathsheba -- have pity upon me!" Boldwood burst out. "God's
sake, yes -- I am come to that low, lowest stage -- to ask a woman
for pity! Still, she is you -- she is you."

Bathsheba commanded herself well. But she could hardly get a clear
voice for what came instinctively to her lips: "There is little honour
to the woman in that speech." It was only whispered, for something
unutterably mournful no less than distressing in this spectacle of a
man showing himself to be so entirely the vane of a passion
enervated
the feminine instinct for punctilios.


--------------------------------------------------------------

"I don't accuse you of it -- I deplore it. I took for earnest what
you insist was jest, and now this that I pray to be jest you say
is awful, wretched earnest. Our moods meet at wrong places. I wish
your feeling was more like mine, or my feeling more like yours! Oh,
could I but have foreseen the torture that trifling trick was going
to lead me into, how I should have cursed you; but only having been
able to see it since, I cannot do that, for I love you too well! But
it is weak, idle drivelling to go on like this.... Bathsheba, you
are the first woman of any shade or nature that I have ever looked
at to love, and it is the having been so near claiming you for my
own that makes this denial so hard to bear. How nearly you promised
me! But I don't speak now to move your heart, and make you grieve
because of my pain; it is no use, that. I must bear it; my pain would
get no less by paining you."

"But I do pity you -- deeply -- O, so deeply!" she earnestly said.

"Do no such thing -- do no such thing. Your dear love, Bathsheba, is
such a vast thing beside your pity, that the loss of your pity as well
as your love is no great addition to my sorrow, nor does the gain of
your pity make it sensibly less
."

--------------------------------------------------------------

"You were nothing to me once, and I was contented; you are now
nothing to me again
, and how different the second nothing is
from the first
! Would to God you had never taken me up, since
it was only to throw me down!"

Bathsheba, in spite of her mettle, began to feel unmistakable
signs that she was inherently the weaker vessel. She strove
miserably against this feminity which would insist upon supplying
unbidden emotions in stronger and stronger current.

--------------------------------------------------------------

"Cheerfully! Can a man fooled to utter heart-burning find
a reason for being merry? If I have lost, how can I be as
if I had won? Heavens you must be heartless quite! Had I
known what a fearfully bitter sweet this was to be, how
would I have avoided you, and never seen you, and been deaf
of you. I tell you all this, but what do you care! You don't
care."

She returned silent and weak denials to his charges, and
swayed her head desperately, as if to thrust away the words
as they came showering about her ears from the lips of the
trembling man in the climax of life, with his bronzed Roman
face and fine frame.

--------------------------------------------------------------

"You overrate my capacity for love. I don't possess half the warmth
of nature you believe me to have. An unprotected childhood in a cold
world has beaten gentleness out of me."

He immediately said with more resentment: "That may be true, somewhat;
but ah, Miss Everdene, it won't do as a reason! You are not the cold
woman you would have me believe. No, no! It isn't because you have no
feeling in you that you don't love me. You naturally would have me think
so -- you would hide from me that you have a burning heart like mine.
You have love enough, but it is turned into a new channel. I know where."

The swift music of her heart became hubbub now, and she throbbed to
extremity. He was coming to Troy. He did then know what had occurred!
And the name fell from his lips the next moment.

"Why did Troy not leave my treasure alone?" he asked, fiercely.

--------------------------------------------------------------

"Now the people sneer at me -- the very hills and sky seem
to
laugh at me till I blush shamefuly for my folly. I have
lost my respect, my good name, my standing -- lost it, never
to get it again. Go and marry your man -- go on!"

"Oh sir -- Mr. Boldwood!"

"You may as well. I have no further claim upon you. As for me,
I had better go somewhere alone, and hide -- and pray. I loved
a woman once. I am now ashamed. When I am dead they'll say,
Miserablelove-sick man that he was. Heaven -- heaven -- if I
had got jilted secretly, and the dishonour not known, and my
position kept! But no matter, it is gone, and the woman not
gained. Shame upon him -- shame!"

His unreasonable anger terrified her, and she glided from him,
without obviously moving, as she said, "I am only a girl -- do
not speak to me so!"

"All the time you knew -- how very well you knew -- that your
new
freak was my misery. Dazzled by brass and scarlet -- Oh,
Bathsheba -- this is woman's folly indeed!"

--------------------------------------------------------------

"He has kissed you -- claimed you as his. Do you hear -- he
has kissed you. Deny it!"

The most tragic woman is cowed by a tragic man, and although
Boldwood was, in vehemence and glow, nearly her own self rendered
into another sex, Bathsheba's cheek quivered. She gasped, "Leave
me, sir -- leave me! I am nothing to you. Let me go on!"

"Deny that he has kissed you."

"I shall not."

"Ha -- then he has!" came hoarsely from the farmer.

"He has," she said, slowly, and, in spite of her fear, defiantly.
"I am not ashamed to speak the truth."

"Then curse him; and curse him!" said Boldwood, breaking into a
whispered fury." Whilst I would have given worlds to touch your
hand
, you have let a rake come in without right or ceremony and
-- kiss you! Heaven's mercy -- kiss you! ... Ah, a time of his life
shall come when he will have to repent, and think wretchedly of the
pain he has caused another man; and then may he ache, and wish, and
curse, and yearn -- as I do now!"

--------------------------------------------------------------

Boldwood's ideas had reached that point of fusion at which
outline and consistency entirely disappear
. The impending
night appeared to concentrate in his eye
. He did not hear
her at all now.

"I'll punish him -- by my soul, that will I! I'll meet him,
soldier or no, and I'll horsewhip the untimely stripling for
this reckless theft of my one delight. If he were a hundred
men I'd horsewhip him ----" He dropped his voice suddenly
and unnaturally. "Bathsheba, sweet, lost coquette, pardon
me! I've been blaming you, threatening you, behaving like a
churl to you, when he's the greatest sinner. He stole your
dear heart away with his unfathomable lies!"

--------------------------------------------------------------

For a moment Boldwood stood so inertly after this that his
soul seemed to have been entirely exhaled with the breath of
his passionate words
. He turned his face away, and withdrew,
and his form was soon covered over by the twilight as his
footsteps mixed in with the low hiss of the leafy trees
.

Bathsheba, who had been standing motionless as a model all
this latter time, flung her hands to her face, and wildly
attempted to ponder on the exhibition which had just passed
away. Such astounding wells of fevered feeling in a still man
like Mr. Boldwood were incomprehensible, dreadful
. Instead of
being a man trained to repression he was -- what she had seen
him.




With almost a morbid dread of being thought a gushing girl, this
guileless woman too well concealed from the world under a manner
of
carelessness the warm depths of her strong emotions. But now
there was no reserve. In her distraction, instead of advancing
further she walked up and down, beating the air with her fingers,
pressing on her brow, and sobbing brokenly to herself. Then she sat
down on a heap of stones by the wayside to think. There she remained
long. Above the dark margin of the earth appeared foreshores and
promontories of coppery cloud, bounding a green and pellucid expanse
in the western sky. Amaranthine glosses came over them then, and the
unresting world wheeled her round to a contrasting prospect eastward,
in the shape of indecisive and palpitating stars. She gazed upon their
silent throes amid the shades of space, but realised none at all. Her
troubled spirit was far away with Troy
.



Chapter 32

Night--Horses Tramping

The village of Weatherbury was quiet as the graveyard in its midst, and the
living
were lying well-nigh as still as the dead. The church clock struck
eleven. The air was so empty of other sounds that the whirr of the clock-
work immediately before the strokes was distinct
, and so was also the click
of the same at their close. The notes flew forth with the usual blind obtuseness
of inanimate things--flapping and rebounding among walls, undulating against
the scattered clouds, spreading through their interstices into unexplored
miles of space.





They rode three, and listened. No sound was to be heard save a
millpond trickling hoarsely through a hatch, and suggesting gloomy
possibilities of drowning by jumping in
.



-----------------------------------------------------------------

She turned her head--the gateman's candle shimmering upon her quick, clear
eyes
as she did so--passed through the gate, and was soon wrapped in the
embowering shades of mysterious summer boughs. Coggan and Gabriel put about
their horses, and, fanned by the velvety air of this July night, retraced
the road by which they had come.

"A strange vagary, this of hers, isn't it, Oak?" said Coggan, curiously.

"Yes," said Gabriel, shortly.


-----------------------------------------------------------------

It was a picture full of misery, but for a while she contemplated
it firmly, allowing herself, nevertheless, as girls will, to dwell
upon the happy life she would have enjoyed had Troy been Boldwood,
and the path of love the path of duty--inflicting upon herself
gratuitous tortures by imagining him the lover of another woman
after forgetting her; for she had penetrated Troy's nature so far
as to estimate his tendencies pretty accurately, but unfortunately
loved him no less in thinking that he might soon cease to love her--
indeed, considerably more.




Was Bathsheba altogether blind to the obvious fact that the
support of a lover's arms is not of a kind best calculated to
assist a resolve to renounce him
? Or was she sophistically
sensible, with a thrill of pleasure, that by adopting this
course for getting rid of him she was ensuring a meeting with
him, at any rate, once more?



Chapter 33

In the Sun -- A Harbinger

-----------------------------------------------------------------

"Hok-hok-hok!" replied Cain. "A crumb of my victuals went
the wrong way--hok-hok! That's what 'tis, Mister Oak! And
I've been visiting to Bath because I had a felon on my thumb;
yes, and I've seen--ahok-hok!"

Directly Cain mentioned Bath, they all threw down their hooks
and forks and drew round him. Unfortunately the erratic crumb
did not
improve his narrative powers, and a supplementary
hindrance was that of a sneeze, jerking from his pocket his
rather large watch, which dangled in front of the young man
pendulum-wise.

-----------------------------------------------------------------

Mr. Coggan poured the liquor with unstinted liberality at the
suffering Cain's circular mouth; half of it running down the
side of the flagon, and half of what reached his mouth running
down outside his throat, and half of what ran in going the wrong
way, and being
coughed and sneezed around the persons of the
gathered reapers in the form of a
cider fog, which for a moment
hung in the sunny air like a small exhalation.

-----------------------------------------------------------------

"Oh--and the new style of parsons wear moustaches and long
beards," continued the illustrious traveller, "and look like
Moses and Aaron complete, and make we fokes in the congregation
feel all over like the children of Israel."

"A very right feeling--very," said Joseph Poorgrass.

"And there's two religions going on in the nation now--High
Church and High Chapel. And, thinks I, I'll play fair; so I went
to High Church in the morning, and High Chapel in the afternoon."

"A right and proper boy," said Joseph Poorgrass.

"Well, at High Church they pray singing, and worship all the colours
of the rainbow
; and at High Chapel they pray preaching, and worship
drab and whitewash only."

-----------------------------------------------------------------


Chapter 34

Home Again -- A Trickster


The farmer instantly went out by the gate. He was unforgiven--
that was the issue of it all. He had seen her who was to him
simultaneously a delight and a torture, sitting in the room he
had shared with her as a peculiarly privileged guest only a little
earlier in the summer, and she had denied him an entrance there now.





We discern a grand force in the lover which he lacks
whilst a free man; but there is a breadth of vision in
the free man
which in the lover we vainly seek. Where
there is much bias there must be some narrowness, and
love, though added emotion, is subtracted capacity.


-----------------------------------------------------------------

"Yes." She turned and tripped up the hill again.

During the progress of this dialogue there was a nervous
twitching of Boldwood's tightly closed lips, and his face
became bathed in a clammy dew. He now started forward towards
Troy. Troy turned to him and took up the bag.

Shall I tell her I have come to give her up and cannot marry
her?" said the soldier, mockingly.

"No, no; wait a minute. I want to say more to you--more to
you!" said Boldwood, in a hoarse whisper.

"Now," said Troy, "you see my dilemma. Perhaps I am a bad
man--the victim of my impulses--led away to do what I ought
to leave undone.


-----------------------------------------------------------------

"By Heaven, I've a mind to kill you!"

"And ruin her."

"Save her."

"Oh, how can she be saved now, unless I marry her?"

Boldwood groaned. He reluctantly released the soldier, and
flung him back against the hedge. "Devil, you torture me!"
said he.

Troy rebounded like a ball, and was about to make a dash at
the farmer; but he checked himself, saying lightly--

"It is not worth while to measure my strength with you. Indeed
it is a barbarous way of settling a quarrel. I shall shortly
leave the army because of the same conviction. Now after that
revelation of how the land lies with Bathsheba, 'twould be a
mistake to kill me, would it not?"

"'Twould be a mistake to kill you," repeated Boldwood,
mechanically, with a bowed head.

"Better kill yourself."

"Far better."

"I'm glad you see it."


-----------------------------------------------------------------

"Troy, make her your wife, and don't act upon what I arranged
just now. The alternative is dreadful, but take Bathsheba; I
give her up! She must love you indeed to sell soul and body to
you so utterly as she has done. Wretched woman--deluded woman--
you are, Bathsheba!"

"But about Fanny?"

"Bathsheba is a woman well to do," continued Boldwood, in nervous
anxiety, and, Troy, she will make a good wife; and, indeed, she is
worth your hastening on your marriage with her!"

"But she has a will--not to say a temper, and I shall be a mere
slave to her. I could do anything with poor Fanny Robin."

"Troy," said Boldwood, imploringly, "I'll do anything for you,
only don't desert her; pray don't desert her, Troy."

"Which, poor Fanny?"

"No; Bathsheba Everdene. Love her best! Love her tenderly! How shall
I get you to see how advantageous it will be to you to secure her at
once?"

"I don't wish to secure her in any new way."

Boldwood's arm moved spasmodically towards Troy's person again. He
repressed the instinct, and his form drooped as with pain.


-----------------------------------------------------------------

"This may be called Fort meeting Feeble, hey, Boldwood?" said
Troy. A low gurgle of derisive laughter followed the words.

The paper fell from Boldwood's hands. Troy continued--

"Fifty pounds to marry Fanny. Good. Twenty-one pounds not to
marry Fanny, but Bathsheba. Good. Finale: already Bathsheba's
husband
. Now, Boldwood, yours is the ridiculous fate which always
attends interference between a man and his wife. And another word.
Bad as I am, I am not such a villain as to make the marriage or
misery of any woman a matter of
huckster and sale. Fanny has long
ago left me. I don't know where she is. I have searched everywhere.
Another word yet. You say you love Bathsheba; yet on the merest
apparent
evidence you instantly believe in her dishonour. A fig
for such love
! Now that I've taught you a lesson, take your money
back again."

"I will not; I will not!" said Boldwood, in a hiss.

"Anyhow I won't have it," said Troy, contemptuously. He wrapped the
packet of gold in the notes
, and threw the whole into the road.

Boldwood shook his clenched fist at him. "You juggler of Satan! You
black hound! But I'll punish you yet; mark me, I'll punish you yet!"

Another peal of laughter. Troy then closed the door, and locked
himself in.

Throughout the whole of that night Boldwood's dark form might have
been seen walking about the hills and downs of Weatherbury like an
unhappy Shade in the Mournful Fields by Acheron.




Chapter 35

At An Upper Window


It was very early the next morning--a time of sun and dew. The
confused beginnings of many birds' songs spread into the healthy
air, and
the wan blue of the heaven was here and there coated with
thin webs of incorporeal cloud
which were of no effect in obscuring
day. All the lights in the scene were yellow as to colour, and all
the shadows were attenuated as to form. The creeping plants about
the old manor-house were bowed with rows of heavy water drops, which
had upon objects behind them the effect of minute lenses of high
magnifying power
.





It was not Bathsheba's way to do things furtively. With all her
faults, she was candour itself. Could she have been entrapped?
The union was not only an unutterable grief to him: it amazed
him, notwithstanding that he had passed the preceding week in
a suspicion that such might be the issue of Troy's meeting her
away from home. Her quiet return with Liddy had to some extent
dispersed the dread. Just as that imperceptible motion which
appears like stillness is infinitely divided in its properties
from stillness itself, so had his hope undistinguishable from
despair differed from despair indeed.


-----------------------------------------------------------------

Coggan replied to the greeting. "Bain't ye going to answer
the man?" he then said to Gabriel. "I'd say good morning--
you needn't spend a hapenny of meaning upon it, and yet
keep the man civil
."

Gabriel soon decided too that, since the deed was done,
to put the best face upon the matter would be the greatest
kindness to her he loved.

"Good morning, Sergeant Troy," he returned, in a ghastly
voice
.

"A rambling, gloomy house this," said Troy, smiling.

"Why--they MAY not be married!" suggested Coggan. "Perhaps
she's not there."

Gabriel shook his head. The soldier turned a little towards
the east, and the sun kindled his scarlet coat to an orange
glow.


-----------------------------------------------------------------

The only signs of the terrible sorrow Boldwood had been
combating through the night, and was combating now, were
the want ofcolour in his well-defined face, the enlarged
appearance of the veins in his forehead and temples, and
the sharper lines about his mouth. The horse bore him away,
and the very step of the animal seemed significant of
dogged despair
. Gabriel, for a minute, rose above his own
grief in noticing Boldwood's. He saw
the square figure sitting
erect upon the horse
, the head turned to neither side, the
elbows steady by the hips, the brim of the hat level and
undisturbed in its onward glide, until
the keen edges of
Boldwood's shape sank by degrees over the hill. To one who
knew the man and his storythere was something more striking
in this immobility than in a collapse. The clash of discord
between mood and matter here was forced painfully home to the
heart; and, as in laughter there are more dreadful phases than
in tears, so was there in the steadiness of this agonized man
an expression deeper than a cry
.




Chapter 36

Wealth In Jeopardy--The Revel


The night had a sinister aspect. A heated breeze from the south
slowly fanned the summits of lofty objects, and in the sky dashes
of buoyant cloud were sailing in a course at right angles to that
of another stratum, neither of them in the direction of the breeze
below. The moon, as seen through these films, had a lurid metallic
look. The fields were sallow with the impure light, and all were
tinged in monochrome, as if beheld through stained glass.





As to the merits of "The Soldier's Joy," there cannot be, and
never were, two opinions. It has been observed in the musical
circles of Weatherbury and its vicinity that this melody, at the
end of three-quarters of an hour of thunderous footing, still
possesses more stimulative properties for the heel and toe than
the majority of other dances at their first opening. "The
Soldier's Joy" has, too, an additional charm, in being so
admirably adapted to the tambourine aforesaid--no mean instrument
in the hands of a performer who understands the proper convulsions,
spasms, St. Vitus's dances, and fearful frenzies necessary when
exhibiting its tones in their highest perfection
.




When he struck a light indoors there appeared upon the table
a thin glistening streak, as if a brush of varnish had been
lightly dragged across it. Oak's eyes followed the serpentine
sheen to the other side, where it led up to a huge brown
garden-slug, which had come indoors to-night for reasons of
its own. It was Nature's second way of hinting to him that he
was to prepare for foul weather.





Every voice in nature was unanimous in bespeaking change. But two
distinct translations attached to these dumb expressions. Apparently
there was to be a thunder-storm, and afterwards a cold continuous rain.
The creeping things seemed to know all about the later rain, but little
of the interpolated thunder-storm; whilst the sheep knew all about the
thunder-storm and nothing of the later rain.





Here, under the table, and leaning against forms and chairs
in every conceivable attitude except the perpendicular, were
the wretched persons of all the work-folk, the hair of their
heads at such low levels being suggestive of mops and brooms.
In the midst of these shone red and distinct the figure of
Sergeant Troy, leaning back in a chair. Coggan was on his
back, with his mouth open, huzzing forth snores, as were
several others; the united breathings of the horizonal
assemblage forming a subdued roar like London from a distance.
Joseph Poorgrass was curled round in the fashion of a hedge-hog,
apparently in attempts to present the least possible portion
of his surface to the air; and behind him was dimly visible
an unimportant remnant of William Smallbury. The glasses and
cups still stood upon the table, a water-jug being overturned,
from which a small rill, after tracing its course with
marvellous precision down the centre of the long table, fell
into the neck of the unconscious Mark Clark, in a steady,
monotonous drip, like the dripping of a stalactite in a cave.





A hot breeze, as if breathed from the parted lips of some
dragon about to
swallow the globe, fanned him from the south,
while directly opposite in the north rose a grim misshapen
body of cloud, in the very teeth of the wind
. So unnaturally
did it rise that one could fancy it to be lifted by machinery
from below. Meanwhile the faint cloudlets had flown back into
the south-east corner of the sky, as if in terror of the large
cloud, like a young brood gazed in upon by some monster.




Time went on, and the moon vanished not to reappear. It was the
farewell of the ambassador previous to war
. The night had a haggard
look, like a sick thing; and there came finally an utter expiration
of air from the whole heaven in the form of a slow breeze, which
might have been likened to a death.



Chapter 37

The Storm--The Two Together


At her third ascent the rick suddenly brightened with the brazen
glare of shining majolica--every knot in every straw was visible.
On the slope in front of him appeared two human shapes, black as
jet
. The rick lost its sheen--the shapes vanished. Gabriel turned
his head. It had been the sixth flash which had come from the east
behind him, and the two dark forms on the slope had been the shadows
of himself and Bathsheba
.





Heaven opened then, indeed. The flash was almost too novel
for its inexpressibly dangerous nature to be at once realized,
and they could only comprehend the magnificence of its beauty.
It sprang from east, west, north, south, and was a perfect
dance of death. The forms of skeletons appeared in the air,
shaped with blue fire for bones--dancing, leaping, striding,
racing around, and mingling altogether in unparalleled confusion.
With these were intertwined undulating snakes of green, and behind
these was a broad mass of lesser light
. Simultaneously came from
every part of the tumbling sky what may be called a shout; since,
though no shout ever came near it, it was more of the nature of a
shout than of anything else earthly. In the meantime one of the
grisly forms had alighted upon the point of Gabriel's rod, to run
invisibly down it, down the chain, and into the earth. Gabriel was
almost blinded, and
he could feel Bathsheba's warm arm tremble in
his hand--a sensation novel and thrilling enough
; but love, life,
everything human, seemed small and trifling in such
close juxtaposition
with an infuriated universe
.



-----------------------------------------------------------------

"The storm seems to have passed now, at any rate."

"I think so too," said Bathsheba. "Though there are multitudes
of gleams, look!"

The sky was now filled with an incessant light, frequent repetition
melting into complete continuity, as an unbroken sound results from
the successive strokes on a gong.

"Nothing serious," said he. "I cannot understand no rain falling.
But Heaven be praised, it is all the better for us. I am now going
up again."

"Gabriel, you are kinder than I deserve! I will stay and help you
yet. Oh, why are not some of the others here!"

"They would have been here if they could," said Oak, in a hesitating
way.

"O, I know it all--all," she said, adding slowly: "They are all asleep
in the barn, in a drunken sleep, and my husband among them. That's it,
is it not? Don't think I am a timid woman and can't endure things."

"I am not certain," said Gabriel. "I will go and see."

He crossed to the barn, leaving her there alone. He looked through the
chinks of the door. All was in total darkness, as he had left it, and
there still arose, as at the former time, the steady buzz of many snores.

He felt a zephyr curling about his cheek, and turned. It was Bathsheba's
breath--she had followed him, and was looking into the same chink.


-----------------------------------------------------------------

Gabriel soon perceived a languor in the movements of his
mistress up and down, and he said to her, gently as a mother--

"I think you had better go indoors now, you are tired. I can
finish the rest alone. If the wind does not change the rain is
likely to keep off."

"If I am useless I will go," said Bathsheba, in a flagging cadence.
"But O, if your life should be lost!"

"You are not useless; but I would rather not tire you longer. You
have done well."

"And you better!" she said, gratefully. "Thank you for your devotion,
a thousand times, Gabriel! Goodnight--I know you are doing your very
best for me."

She diminished in the gloom, and vanished, and he heard the latch
of the gate fall as she passed through. He worked in a reverie now,
musing upon her story, and upon the contradictoriness of that feminine
heart which had caused her to speak more warmly to him to-night than
she ever had done whilst unmarried and free to speak as warmly as she
chose
.


Chapter 38

Rain--One Solitary Meets Another


The air changed its temperature and stirred itself more
vigorously. Cool breezes coursed in transparent eddies
round Oak's face. The wind shifted yet a point or two and
blew stronger. In ten minutes every wind of heaven seemed
to be roaming at large.





A huge drop of rain smote his face, the wind snarled round
every corner
, the trees rocked to the bases of their trunks,
and the twigs clashed in strife. Driving in spars at any point
and on any system, inch by inch he covered more and more safely
from ruin this distracting impersonation of seven hundred pounds.
The rain came on in earnest, and Oak soon felt the water to be
tracking cold and clammy routes down his back. Ultimately he was
reduced well-nigh to
a homogeneous sop, and the dyes of his clothes
trickled down and stood in a pool at the foot of the ladder. The rain
stretched obliquely through the dull atmosphere in liquid spines,
unbroken in continuity between their beginnings in the clouds and
their points in him
.


-----------------------------------------------------------------

In front of him against the wet glazed surface of the lane he
saw a person walking yet more slowly than himself under an umbrella.
The man turned and plainly started; he was Boldwood.

"How are you this morning, sir?" said Oak.

"Yes, it is a wet day.--Oh, I am well, very well, I thank you; quite
well."

"I am glad to hear it, sir."

Boldwood seemed to awake to the present by degrees. "You look tired
and ill, Oak," he said then, desultorily regarding his companion.

"I am tired. You look strangely altered, sir."

"I? Not a bit of it: I am well enough. What put that into your head?"

"I thought you didn't look quite so topping as you used to, that was
all."

"Indeed, then you are mistaken," said Boldwood, shortly. "Nothing hurts
me. My constitution is an iron one."


-----------------------------------------------------------------


"Overlooked them," repeated Gabriel slowly to himself. It is difficult
to describe the
intensely dramatic effect that announcement had upon Oak
at such a moment. All the night he had been feeling that the neglect he
was labouring to repair was
abnormal and isolated--the only instance of
the kind within the circuit of the county. Yet at this very time, within
the same parish, a greater waste had been going on, uncomplained of and
disregarded. A few months earlier Boldwood's forgetting his husbandry would
have been as preposterous an idea as a sailor forgetting he was in a ship.
Oak was just thinking that whatever he himself might have suffered from
Bathsheba's marriage, here was a man who had
suffered more, when Boldwood
spoke in a changed voice--that of one who yearned to make a confidence and
relieve his heart by an outpouring.

"Oak, you know as well as I that things have gone wrong with me lately. I
may as well own it. I was going to get a little settled in life; but in
some way my plan has come to nothing."

"I thought my mistress would have married you," said Gabriel, not knowing
enough of
the full depths of Boldwood's love to keep silence on the farmer's
account,
and determined not to evade discipline by doing so on his own.
"However, it is so sometimes, and nothing happens that we expect," he added,
with the repose of a man whom misfortune had inured rather than subdued.

"I daresay I am a joke about the parish," said Boldwood, as if the subject
came irresistibly to his tongue, and with a miserable lightness meant to
express his indifference.

"Oh no--I don't think that."

"--But the real truth of the matter is that there was not, as some fancy, any
jilting on--her part. No engagement ever existed between me and Miss Everdene.
People say so, but it is untrue: she never promised me!" Boldwood stood still
now and turned his wild face to Oak. "Oh, Gabriel," he continued, "I am weak
and foolish, and I don't know what, and I can't fend off my miserable
grief! ... I had some faint belief in the mercy of God till I lost that woman.
Yes,
He prepared a gourd to shade me, and like the prophet I thanked Him and
was glad. But the next day He prepared a worm to smite the gourd and wither
it
; and I feel it is better to die than to live!"



Chapter 39

Coming Home--A Cry

-----------------------------------------------------------------

"And you mean, Frank," said Bathsheba, sadly--her voice was
painfully lowered from the fulness and vivacity of the previous
summer--"that you have lost more than a hundred pounds in a
month by this dreadful horse-racing? O, Frank, it is cruel;
it is foolish of you to take away my money so. We shall have
to leave the farm; that will be the end of it!"

"Humbug about cruel. Now, there 'tis again--turn on the
waterworks
; that's just like you."

"But you'll promise me not to go to Budmouth second meeting,
won't you?" she implored. Bathsheba was at the full depth for
tears
, but she maintained a dry eye.

"I don't see why I should; in fact, if it turns out to be a
fine day, I was thinking of taking you."

"Never, never! I'll go a hundred miles the other way first.
I hate the sound of the very word!"

"But the question of going to see the race or staying at home
has very little to do with the matter. Bets are all booked safely
enough before the race begins, you may depend. Whether it is a
bad race for me or a good one, will have very little to do with
our going there next Monday."

"But you don't mean to say that you have risked anything on this
one too!" she exclaimed, with an agonized look.

"There now, don't you be a little fool. Wait till you are told.
Why, Bathsheba, you have lost all the pluck and sauciness you
formerly had, and upon my life if I had known what a chicken-hearted
creature you were under all your boldness, I'd never have--I know what."

A flash of indignation might have been seen in Bathsheba's dark
eyes as she looked resolutely ahead after this reply.


-----------------------------------------------------------------


"Do you know who that woman was?" said Bathsheba,
looking searchingly into his face.

"I do," he said, looking boldly back into hers.

"I thought you did," said she, with angry hauteur, and
still regarding him. "Who is she?"

He suddenly seemed to think that frankness would benefit
neither of the women.

"Nothing to either of us," he said. "I know her by sight."

"What is her name?"

"How should I know her name?"

"I think you do."

"Think if you will, and be--" The sentence was completed by
a
smart cut of the whip round Poppet's flank, which caused
the animal to start forward at a wild pace. No more was said.


-----------------------------------------------------------------


Chapter 40

On Casterbridge Highway


For a considerable time the woman walked on. Her steps
became feebler, and she strained her eyes to look afar
upon the naked road, now indistinct amid the penumbrae
of night
. At length her onward walk dwindled to the merest
totter
, and she opened a gate within which was a haystack.
Underneath this she sat down and presently slept.

When the woman awoke it was to find herself in the depths
of a moonless and starless night. A heavy unbroken crust
of cloud
stretched across the sky, shutting out every speck
of heaven
; and a distant halo which hung over the town of
Casterbridge was visible against the black concave, the
luminosity appearing the brighter by its great contrast
with the circumscribing darkness. Towards this weak, soft
glow the woman turned her eyes.

"If I could only get there!" she said. "Meet him the day
after to-morrow: God help me! Perhaps I shall be in my
grave before then."

A manor-house clock from the far depthsof shadow struck
the hour, one, in a small, attenuated tone. After midnight
the voice of a clock seems to lose in breadth as much as
in length, and to diminish its sonorousness to a thin falsetto.

Afterwards a light--two lights--arose from the remote shade,
and grew larger. A carriage rolled along the toad, and passed
the gate. It probably contained some late diners-out. The beams
from one lamp shone for a moment upon the crouching woman, and
threw her face into vivid relief
. The face was young in the
groundwork, old in the finish; the general contours were flexuous
and childlike, but the finer lineaments had begun to be sharp and
thin.





The crutches, though so very useful, had their limits of
power. Mechanism only transfers labour, being powerless
to supersede it, and the original amount of exertion was
not cleared away; it was thrown into the body and arms.
She was exhausted, and each swing forward became fainter.
At last she swayed sideways, and fell.

Here she lay, a shapeless heap, for ten minutes and more.
The morning wind began to boom dully over the flats, and to
move afresh dead leaves which had lain still since yesterday.




Self-beguilement with what she had known all the time to
be false had given her strength to come over half a mile
that she would have been powerless to face in the lump.
The artifice showed that the woman, by some mysterious
intuition, had grasped the paradoxical truth that blindness
may operate more vigorously than prescience, and the
short-sighted effect more than the far-seeing; that
limitation, and not comprehensiveness, is needed for
striking a blow.




Never was ingenuity exercised so sorely as the traveller here
exercised hers. Every conceivable aid, method, stratagem,
mechanism, by which these last desperate eight hundred yards
could be overpassed by a human being unperceived, was revolved
in her busy brain, and dismissed as impracticable. She thought
of sticks, wheels, crawling--she even thought of rolling. But
the exertion demanded by either of these latter two was greater
than to walk erect. The faculty of contrivance was worn out.
Hopelessness had come at last.

"No further!" she whispered, and closed her eyes.

From the stripe of shadow on the opposite side of the bridge a
portion of shade seemed to detach itself and move into isolation
upon the pale white of the road. It glided noiselessly towards
the recumbent woman
.

She became conscious of something touching her hand; it was
softness and it was warmth. She opened her eye's, and the substance
touched her face. A dog was licking her cheek
.

He was a huge, heavy, and quiet creature, standing darkly against
the low horizon, and at least two feet higher than the present
position of her eyes. Whether Newfoundland, mastiff, bloodhound,
or what not, it was impossible to say. He seemed to be of too
strange and mysterious a nature to belong to any variety among
those of popular nomenclature.Being thus assignable to no breed,
he was the ideal embodiment of canine greatness--a generalization
from what was common to all
. Night, in its sad, solemn, and benevolent
aspect, apart from its
stealthy and cruel side, was personified in
this form
. Darkness endows the small and ordinary ones among mankind
with poetical power
, and even the suffering woman threw her idea into
figure
.




The ultimate and saddest singularity of woman's effort and
invention was reached when, with a quickened breathing, she
rose to a stooping posture, and, resting her two little arms
upon the shoulders of the dog, leant firmly thereon, and murmured
stimulating words.
Whilst she sorrowed in her heart she cheered
with her voice, and what was stranger than that the strong should
need encouragement from the weak was that cheerfulness should be
so well stimulated by such utter dejection
. Her friend moved
forward slowly, and she with small mincing steps moved forward
beside him, half her weight being thrown upon the animal.
Sometimes she sank as she had sunk from walking erect, from the
crutches, from the rails. The dog, who now thoroughly understood
her
desire and her incapacity, was frantic in his distress on
these occasions; he would tug at her dress and run forward.
She
always called him back, and it was now to be observed that the
woman listened for human sounds only to avoid them. It was evident
hat she had an object in keeping her presence on the road and her
forlorn state unknown.



Chapter 41

Suspicion--Fanny Is Sent For

"Oh, Frank!" Bathsheba replied, and there was such a volume
of entreaty in the words
. "Only such a few weeks ago you said
that I was far sweeter than all your other pleasures put
together, and that you would give them all up for me; and now,
won't you give up this one, which is more a worry than a
pleasure? Do, Frank. Come, let me fascinate you by all I can
do--by pretty words and pretty looks, and everything I can
think of--to stay at home. Say yes to your wife--say yes!
"

The tenderest and softest phases of Bathsheba's nature were
prominent now--advanced impulsively for his acceptance, without
any of the disguises and defences which the wariness of her
character when she was cool too frequently threw over them.
Few men could have resisted the arch yet dignified entreaty of
the beautiful face, thrown a little back and sideways in the
well known attitude that expresses more than the words it
accompanies
, and which seems to have been designed for these
special occasions. Had the woman not been his wife, Troy would
have succumbed instantly;


-----------------------------------------------------------------

"I think that I have a right to grumble a little if I pay,"
she said, with features between a
smile and a pout.

"Exactly; and, the former being done, suppose we proceed to
the latter. Bathsheba, fun is all very well, but don't go too
far, or you may have cause to regret something."

She reddened. "I do that already," she said, quickly.

"What do you regret?"

"That my romance has come to an end."

"All romances end at marriage."

"I wish you wouldn't talk like that. You grieve me to my soul
by being smart at my expense."

"You are dull enough at mine. I believe you hate me."

"Not you--only your faults. I do hate them."

"'Twould be much more becoming if you set yourself to cure them."


-----------------------------------------------------------------

"This is all I get for loving you so well! Ah! when I married
you your life was dearer to me than my own. I would have died
for you--how truly I can say that I would have died for you!
And now you sneer at my foolishness in marrying you. O! is it
kind to me to throw my mistake in my face? Whatever opinion you
may have of my wisdom, you should not tell me of it so mercilessly,
now that I am in your power."

"I can't help how things fall out," said Troy; "upon my heart,
women will be the death of me!"

"Well you shouldn't keep people's hair. You'll burn it, won't
you, Frank?"

Frank went on as if he had not heard her. "There are considerations
even before my consideration for you; reparations to be made--ties
you know nothing of. If you repent of marrying, so do I."

Trembling now, she put her hand upon his arm, saying, in mingled
tones of wretchedness and coaxing, "I only repent it if you don't
love me better than any woman in the world! I don't otherwise, Frank.
You don't repent because you already love somebody better than you
love me, do you?"


-----------------------------------------------------------------

"A mere jest!" she said, in mournful astonishment. "Can you
jest when I am so wretchedly in earnest? Tell me the truth,
Frank. I am not a fool, you know, although I am a woman, and
have my woman's moments. Come! treat me fairly," she said,
looking honestly and fearlessly into his face. "I don't want
much; bare justice--that's all! Ah! once I felt I could be
content with nothing less than the highest homage from the
husband I should choose. Now, anything short of cruelty will
content me. Yes! the independent and spirited Bathsheba is
come to this!"

"For Heaven's sake don't be so desperate!" Troy said, snappishly,
rising as he did so, and leaving the room.

Directly he had gone, Bathsheba burst into great sobs--dry-eyed
sobs, which cut as they came, without any softening by tears.
But she determined to repress all evidences of feeling. She was
conquered; but she would never own it as long as she lived. Her
pride was indeed brought low by despairing discoveries of her
spoliation by marriage with a less pure nature than her own.
She chafed to and fro in rebelliousness, like a caged leopard;
her whole soul was in arms, and the blood fired her face. Until
she had met Troy, Bathsheba had been proud of her position as
a woman; it had been a glory to her to know that her lips had
been touched by no man's on earth--that her waist had never been
encircled by a lover's arm. She hated herself now
. In those
earlier days she had always nourished a secret contempt for
girls who were the slaves of the first good-looking young fellow
who should choose to salute them. She had never taken kindly to
the idea of marriage in the abstract as did the majority of women
she saw about her. In the turmoil of her anxiety for her lover she
had agreed to marry him; but the perception that had accompanied
her happiest hours on this account was rather that of self-sacrifice
than of promotion and honour. Although she scarcely knew the divinity's
name, Diana was the goddess whom Bathsheba instinctively adored. That
she had never, by look, word, or sign, encouraged a man to approach
her--that she had felt herself sufficient to herself, and had in the
independence of her girlish heart fancied there was a certain
degradation in renouncing the simplicity of a maiden existence to
become the humbler half of an indifferent matrimonial whole
--were
facts now bitterly remembered. Oh, if she had never stooped to folly
of this kind, respectable as it was, and could only stand again, as
she had stood on the hill at Norcombe, and dare Troy or any other man
to pollute a hair of her head by his interference
!


-----------------------------------------------------------------

"Ah-h!"

No gem ever flashed from a rosy ray to a white one more
rapidly than changed the young wife's countenance whilst
this word came from her in a
long-drawn breath. "Did she
walk along our turnpike-road?" she said, in a suddenly
restless and eager voice.

"I believe she did.... Ma'am, shall I call Liddy? You bain't
well, ma'am, surely? You look like a lily--so pale and fainty!"



Chapter 42

Joseph and His Burden--Buck's Head


Poorgass saw strange clouds and scrolls of mist rolling over
the long ridges which girt the landscape in that quarter. They
came in yet greater volumes, and indolently crept across the
intervening valleys, and around the
withered papery flags of
the moor and river brinks. Then thei
r dank spongy forms closed
in upon the sky. It was a sudden
overgrowth of atmospheric fungi
w
hich had their roots in the neighbouring sea, and by the time
that horse, man, and corpse entered Yalbury Great Wood, these
silent workings of an invisible hand had reached them, and they
were completely enveloped, this being the first arrival of the
autumn fogs, and the first fog of the series.

The air was as an eye suddenly struck blind. The waggon and its
load rolled no longer on the horizontal division between clearness
and opacity, but were imbedded in an elastic body of a monotonous
pallor throughout. There was no perceptible motion in the air,
not a visible drop of water fell upon a leaf of the beeches,
irches, and firs composing the wood on either side. The trees
stood in an attitude of intentness, as if they waited longingly
for a wind to come and rock them. A startling quiet overhung all
surrounding things--so completely, that the crunching of the
waggon-wheels was as a great noise, and small rustles, which had
never obtained a hearing except by night, were distinctly
individualized
.





Not a footstep or wheel was audible anywhere around, and the
dead silence was broken only by a heavy particle falling from
a tree through the evergreens and alighting with a smart rap
upon the coffin of poor Fanny
. The fog had by this time saturated
the trees, and this was the first dropping of water from the
overbrimming leaves. The hollow echo of its fall reminded the
waggoner painfully of the grim Leveller. Then hard by came down
another drop, then two or three. Presently there was a continual
tapping of these heavy drops upon the dead leaves, the road, and
the travellers. The nearer boughs were beaded with the mist to
the greyness of aged men, and the rusty-red leaves of the beeches
were hung with similar drops, like
diamonds on auburn hair.





what should Joseph see to gladden his eyes but two copper-coloured
discs
, in the form of the countenances of Mr. Jan Coggan and Mr.
Mark Clark. These owners of the two most appreciative throats in
the neighbourhood, within the pale of respectability, were now
sitting face to face over a three-legged circular table, having an
iron rim to keep cups and pots from being accidentally elbowed off;
they might have been said to resemble the setting sun and the full
moon shining vis-a-vis across the globe
.


-----------------------------------------------------------------

"'Tis pretty drinking--very pretty drinking, and is more than
cheerful on my melancholy errand, so to speak it."

"True, drink is a pleasant delight," said Jan, as one who repeated
a truism so familiar to his brain that he hardly noticed its passage
over his tongue
; and, lifting the cup, Coggan tilted his head gradually
backwards, with closed eyes, that his expectant soul might not be
diverted for one instant from its bliss by irrelevant surroundings.


-----------------------------------------------------------------

"I don't mind taking just the least thimbleful ye can dream of
more with ye, sonnies. But only a few minutes, because 'tis as 'tis."

"Of course, you'll have another drop. A man's twice the man
afterwards. You feel so warm and glorious, and you whop and slap
at your work without any trouble, and everything goes on like
sticks a-breaking
. Too much liquor is bad, and leads us to that
horned man in the smoky house; but after all, many people haven't
the gift of enjoying a wet
, and since we be highly favoured with
a power that way, we should make the most o't."

"True," said Mark Clark. "'Tis a talent the Lord has mercifully
bestowed upon us, and we ought not to neglect it. But, what with
the parsons and clerks and school-people and serious tea-parties,
the merry old ways of good life have gone to the dogs--upon my
carcase, they have!"


-----------------------------------------------------------------

The longer Joseph Poorgrass remained, the less his spirit was
troubled by the duties which devolved upon him this afternoon.
The minutes glided by uncounted, until the evening shades began
perceptibly to deepen, and
the eyes of the three were but sparkling
points on the surface of darkness
. Coggan's repeater struck six
from his pocket in the usual still small tones.


-----------------------------------------------------------------

Coggan looked up indefinitely at Oak, one or other of his
eyes occasionally opening and closing of its own accord, as
if it were not a member, but a dozy individual with a distinct
personality
.

"Don't take on so, shepherd!" said Mark Clark, looking reproachfully
at the candle, which appeared to possess special features of interest
for his eyes.


"Nobody can hurt a dead woman," at length said Coggan, with the
precision of a machine. "All that could be done for her is done--
she's beyond us: and why should a man put himself in a tearing hurry
for lifeless clay
that can neither feel nor see, and don't know what
you do with her at all? If she'd been alive, I would have been the
first to help her. If she now wanted victuals and drink, I'd pay for
it, money down. But she's dead, and no speed of ours will bring her to
life. The woman's past us--time spent upon her is throwed away: why
should we hurry to do what's not required? Drink, shepherd, and be
friends, for to-morrow we may be like her."

"We may," added Mark Clark, emphatically, at once drinking himself, to
run no further risk of losing his chance by the event alluded to,


-----------------------------------------------------------------

"Show myself a man of spirit? ... Ah, well! let me take the
name of drunkard humbly--let me be a man of contrite knees--let
it be! I know that I always do say 'Please God' afore I do anything,
from my getting up to my going down of the same, and I be willing to
take as much disgrace as there is in that holy act. Hah, yes! ...
But not a man of spirit? Have I ever allowed the toe of pride to be
lifted against my hinder parts without groaning manfully that I
question the right to do so? I inquire that query boldly?"


-----------------------------------------------------------------

Gabriel hoped that the whole truth of the matter might not be
published till at any rate the girl had been in her grave for
a few days, when the interposing barriers of earth and time,
and a sense that the events had been somewhat shut into oblivion,
would deaden the sting that revelation and invidious remark would
have for Bathsheba just now.


-----------------------------------------------------------------

"It is unkind and unchristian," she said, "to leave the poor
thing in a coach-house all night."

"Very well, then," said the parson. "And I will arrange that
the funeral shall take place early to-morrow. Perhaps Mrs.
Troy is right in feeling that we cannot treat a dead fellow-creature
too thoughtfully. We must remember that though she may have erred
grievously in leaving her home, she is still our sister: and it
is to be believed that God's uncovenanted mercies are extended
towards her, and that she is a member of the flock of Christ."

The parson's words spread into the heavy air with a sad yet
unperturbed cadence, and Gabriel shed an honest tear.





Oak imagined a terrible discovery resulting from this afternoon's
work that might cast over Bathsheba's life a shade which the
interposition of many lapsing years might but indifferently lighten,
and which nothing at all might altogether remove.

Suddenly, as in a last attempt to save Bathsheba from, at any rate,
immediate anguish, he looked again, as he had looked before, at the
chalk writing upon the coffin-lid. The scrawl was this simple one,
"FANNY ROBIN AND CHILD." Gabriel took his handkerchief and carefully
rubbed out the two latter words, leaving visible the inscription
"FANNY ROBIN" only.




Chapter 43

Fanny's Revenge


Bathsheba was lonely and miserable now; not lonelier actually
than she had been before her marriage; but her loneliness then
was to that of the present time as the solitude of a mountain
is to the solitude of a cave. And within the last day or two had
come these disquieting thoughts about her husband's past. Her
wayward sentiment that evening concerning Fanny's temporary
resting-place had been the result of a strange complication of
impulses in Bathsheba's bosom. Perhaps it would be more accurately
described as a determined rebellion against her prejudices, a
revulsion from a lower instinct of uncharitableness, which would
have withheld all sympathy from the dead woman, because in life
she had preceded Bathsheba in the attentions of a man whom Bathsheba
had by no means ceased from loving, though her love was sick to death
just now with the gravity of a further misgiving.





She suddenly felt a longing desire to speak to some one stronger
than herself, and so get strength to sustain her surmised position
with
dignity and her carking doubts with stoicism. Where could she
find such a friend? nowhere in the house. She was by far the coolest
of the women under her roof. Patience and suspension of judgement
for a few hours were what she wanted to learn, and there was nobody
to teach her. Might she but go to Gabriel Oak!--but that could not
be. What a way Oak had, she thought, of enduring things. Boldwood,
who seemed so much deeper and higher and stronger in feeling than
Gabriel, had not yet learnt, any more than she herself, the simple
lesson which Oak showed a mastery of by every turn and look he gave
--
that among the multitude of interests by which he was surrounded,
those which affected his personal well-being were not the most absorbing
and important in his eyes. Oak meditatively looked upon the horizon of
circumstances without any special regard to his own standpoint in the
midst.





Alas for her resolve! She felt she could not do it. Not for worlds
now could she give a hint about her misery to him, much less ask
him plainly for information on the cause of Fanny's death. She must
suspect, and guess, and chafe, and bear it all alone.

Like a homeless wanderer she lingered by the bank, as if lulled and
fascinated by the atmosphere of content which seemed to spread from
that little dwelling, and was so sadly lacking in her own
. Gabriel
appeared in an upper room, placed his light in the window-bench, and
then--knelt down to pray. The contrast of the picture with her
rebellious and agitated existence at this same time was too much for
her to bear to look upon longer. It was not for her to make a truce
with trouble by any such means. She must tread her giddy distracting
measure to its last note, as she had begun it
. With a swollen heart
she went again up the lane, and entered her own door.




Bathsheba's head sank upon her bosom, and the breath which had been
bated in suspense, curiosity, and interest, was exhaled now in the
form of a whispered wail: "Oh-h-h!" she said, and the silent room
added length to her moan
.

Her tears fell fast beside the unconscious pair in the coffin: tears
of a complicated origin, of a nature indescribable, almost indefinable
except as other than those of simple sorrow. Assuredly their wonted
fires must have lived in Fanny's ashes when events were so shaped as
to chariot her hither in this natural, unobtrusive, yet effectual manner
.
The one feat alone--that of dying--by which a mean condition could be
resolved into a grand one, Fanny had achieved. And to that had destiny
subjoined this reencounter to-night, which had, in Bathsheba's wild
imagining, turned her companion's
failure to success, her humiliation to
triumph, her lucklessness to ascendency; it had thrown over herself a
garish light of mockery, and set upon all things about her an ironical
smile
.




In Bathsheba's heated fancy the innocent white countenance expressed
a dim triumphant consciousness of the pain she was retaliating for
her pain with all the merciless rigour of the Mosaic law: "Burning for
burning; wound for wound: strife for strife."




"O, I hate her, yet I don't mean that I hate her, for it is grievous
and wicked; and yet I hate her a little! Yes, my flesh insists upon
hating her, whether my spirit is willing or no!
... If she had only
lived, I could have been angry and cruel towards her with some
justification; but to be vindictive towards a poor dead woman recoils
upon myself. O God, have mercy! I am miserable at all this!"




The candle was standing on a bureau close by them, and the light
slanted down, distinctly enkindling the cold features of both mother
and babe
. Troy looked in, dropped his wife's hand, knowledge of it
all came over him in a lurid sheen, and he stood still.

So still he remained that he could be imagined to have left in him
no motive power whatever. The clashes of feeling in all directions
confounded one another, produced a neutrality, and there was motion
in none.




What Troy did was to sink upon his knees with an indefinable union of
remorse and reverence upon his face, and, bending over Fanny Robin,
gently kissed her, as one would kiss an infant asleep to avoid awakening
it.

At the sight and sound of that, to her, unendurable act, Bathsheba sprang
towards him. All the strong feelings which had been scattered over her
existence since she knew what feeling was, seemed gathered together into
one
pulsation now. The revulsion from her indignant mood a little earlier,
when she had meditated upon compromised honour, forestalment, eclipse in
maternity by another, was violent and entire. All that was forgotten in
the simple and still strong attachment of wife to husband. She had sighed
for her self-completeness then, and now she cried aloud against the
severance of the union she had deplored
. She flung her arms round Troy's
neck, exclaiming wildly from the deepest deep of her heart--

"Don't--don't kiss them! O, Frank, I can't bear it--I can't! I love you
better than she did: kiss me too, Frank--kiss me! YOU WILL, FRANK, KISS
ME TOO!"

-----------------------------------------------------------------

All the feeling she had been betrayed into showing she drew
back to herself again by a strenuous effort of self-command.

"What have you to say as your reason?" she asked, her bitter
voice being strangely low--quite that of another woman now.

"I have to say that I have been a bad, black-hearted man," he
answered.

"And that this woman is your victim; and I not less than she."

"Ah! don't taunt me, madam. This woman is more to me, dead as
she is, than ever you were, or are, or can be. If Satan had not
tempted me with that face of yours, and those cursed coquetries,
I should have married her. I never had another thought till you
came in my way. Would to God that I had; but it is all too late!"
He turned to Fanny then. "But never mind, darling," he said; "in
the sight of Heaven you are my very, very wife!
"

At these words there arose from Bathsheba's lips a long, low cry
of measureless despair and indignation, such a wail of anguish as
had never before been heard within those old-inhabited walls. It
was the [GREEK word meaning "it is finished"] of her union with
Troy.

"If she's--that,--what--am I?" she added, as a continuation of the
same cry, and sobbing pitifully: and the rarity with her of such
abandonment only made the condition more dire.

"You are nothing to me--nothing," said Troy, heartlessly. "A ceremony
before a priest doesn't make a marriage. I am not morally yours."

A vehement impulse to flee from him, to run from this place, hide,
and escape his words at any price, not stopping short of death itself,
mastered Bathsheba now. She waited not an instant, but turned to the
door and ran out.



Chapter 44

Under a Tree--Reaction


She looked further around. Day was just dawning, and beside its
cool air and colours her heated actions and resolves of the night
stood out in lurid contrast. She perceived that in her lap, and
clinging to her hair, were red and yellow leaves which had come down
from the tree and settled silently upon her during her partial sleep.
Bathsheba shook her dress to get rid of them, when multitudes of the
same family lying round about her rose and fluttered away in the
breeze thus created, "like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing."

There was an opening towards the east, and the glow from the as yet
unrisen sun
attracted her eyes thither. From her feet, and between
the beautiful yellowing ferns with their feathery arms, the ground
sloped downwards to a hollow, in which was a species of swamp, dotted
with fungi. A morning mist hung over it now--a
fulsome yet magnificent
silvery veil, full of light from the sun, yet semi-opaque--the hedge
behind it being in some measure hidden by its hazy
luminousness. Up
the sides of this depression grew sheaves of the common rush, and here
and there a peculiar species of flag, the blades of which
glistened
in the emerging sun, like scythes. But the general aspect of the swamp
was
malignant. From its moist and poisonous coat seemed to be exhaled
the essences of evil things in the earth, and in the waters under the
earth. The fungi grew in all manner of positions from rotting leaves
and tree stumps, some exhibiting to her listless gaze their clammy tops,
others their oozing gills. Some were marked with great splotches, red
as arterial blood, others were saffron yellow
, and others tall and
attenuated, with stems like macaroni. Some were leathery and of richest
browns. The hollow seemed a nursery of pestilences small and great, in
the immediate neighbourhood of comfort and health
, and Bathsheba arose
with a tremor at the thought of having passed the night on the brink of
so dismal a place.





The boy was of the dunce class apparently; the book was a psalter,
and this was his way of learning the collect. In the worst attacks
of trouble there appears to be always a superficial film of
consciousness which is left disengaged and open to the notice of
trifles
, and Bathsheba was faintly amused at the boy's method, till
he too passed on.





Bathsheba never forgot that transient little picture of Liddy
crossing the swamp to her there in the morning light. Iridescent
bubbles of dank subterranean breath rose from the sweating sod

beside the waiting-maid's feet as she trod, hissing as they burst
and expanded away to join the vapoury firmament above
. Liddy did
not sink, as Bathsheba had anticipated.




Chapter 45

Troy's Romanticism

(None)


Chapter 46

The Gurgoyle: Its Doings


A beholder was convinced that nothing on earth could be more hideous
than those he saw on the north side until he went round to the south.
Of the two on this latter face, only that at the south-eastern corner
concerns the story. It was too human to be called like a dragon, too
impish
to be like a man, too animal to be like a fiend, and not enough
like a bird
to be called a griffin. This horrible stone entity was
fashioned as if covered with a wrinkled hide; it had short, erect ears,
eyes starting from their sockets, and its fingers and hands were seizing
the corners of its mouth, which they thus seemed to pull open to give
free passage to the water it vomited. The lower row of teeth was quite
washed away, though the upper still remained. Here and thus, jutting a
couple of feet from the wall against which its feet rested as a support,
the creature had for four hundred years laughed at the surrounding
landscape, voicelessly in dry weather, and in wet with a gurgling and
snorting sound.





Presently the gurgoyle spat. In due time a small stream began to
trickle through the seventy feet of aerial space between its mouth
and the ground, which the water-drops smote like duckshot in their
accelerated velocity. The stream thickened in substance, and increased
in power, gradually spouting further and yet further from the side of
the tower. When the rain fell in a steady and ceaseless torrent the
stream dashed downward in volumes.

We follow its course to the ground at this point of time. The end of
the liquid parabola has come forward from the wall, has advanced over
the plinth mouldings, over a heap of stones, over the marble border,
into the midst of Fanny Robin's grave.

The force of the stream had, until very lately, been received upon some
loose stones spread thereabout, which had acted as a shield to the soil
under the onset. These during the summer had been cleared from the ground,
and there was now nothing to resist the down-fall but the bare earth. For
several years the stream had not spouted so far from the tower as it was
doing on this night, and such a contingency had been over-looked. Sometimes
this obscure corner received no inhabitant for the space of two or three
years, and then it was usually but a pauper, a poacher, or other sinner of
undignified sins.

The persistent torrent from the gurgoyle's jaws directed all its vengeance
into the grave. The rich tawny mould was stirred into motion, and boiled
like chocolate.
The water accumulated and washed deeper down, and the roar
of the pool thus formed spread into the night as the head and chief among
other noises of the kind created by the deluging rain.
The flowers so
carefully planted by Fanny's repentant lover began to move and writhe in
their bed. The winter-violets turned slowly upside down, and became a mere
mat of mud. Soon the snowdrop and other bulbs danced in the boiling mass
like ingredients in a cauldron. Plants of the tufted species were loosened,
rose to the surface, and floated off
.





Troy's brow became heavily contracted. He set his teeth closely,
and his compressed lips moved as those of one in great pain. This
singular accident, by a strange confluence of emotions in him, was
felt as the sharpest sting of all. Troy's face was very expressive,
and any observer who had seen him now would hardly have believed him
to be a man who had laughed, and sung, and poured love-trifles into
a woman's ear
. To curse his miserable lot was at first his impulse,
but even that lowest stage of rebellion needed an activity whose
absence was necessarily antecedent to the existence of the morbid
misery which wrung him. The sight, coming as it did, superimposed
upon the other dark scenery of the previous days, formed a sort of
climax to the whole panorama, and it was more than he could endure.
Sanguine by nature, Troy had a power of eluding grief by simply
adjourning it. He could put off the consideration of any particular
spectre till the matter had become old and softened by time. The
planting of flowers on Fanny's grave had been perhaps but a species
of elusion of the primary grief, and now it was as if his intention
had been known and circumvented.

Almost for the first time in his life, Troy, as he stood by this
dismantled grave, wished himself another man. It is seldom that a
person with much animal spirit does not feel that the fact of his
life being his own is the one qualification which singles it out
as a more hopeful life than that of others who may actually resemble
him in every particular. Troy had felt, in his transient way, hundreds
of times, that he could not envy other people their condition, because
the possession of that condition would have necessitated a different
personality, when he desired no other than his own. He had not minded
the peculiarities of his birth, the vicissitudes of his life, the
meteor-like uncertainty of all that related to him, because these
appertained to the hero of his story, without whom there would have
been no story at all for him
;





"He that is accursed, let him be accursed still," was the pitiless
anathema written in this spoliated effort of his new-born solicitousness.
A man who has spent his primal strength in journeying in one direction
has not much spirit left for reversing his course. Troy had, since
yesterday, faintly reversed his; but the merest opposition had
disheartened him. To turn about would have been hard enough under the
greatest providential encouragement; but to find that Providence, far
from helping him into a new course, or showing any wish that he might
adopt one, actually jeered his first trembling and critical attempt in
that kind, was more than nature could bear.





Almost before the first faint sign of dawn appeared she arose again,
and opened the window to obtain a full breathing of the new morning air,
the panes being now wet with trembling tears left by the night rain,
each one rounded with a pale lustre caught from primrose-hued slashes
through a cloud low down in the awakening sky
. From the trees came the
sound of steady dripping upon the drifted leaves under them, and from
the direction of the church she could hear another noise--peculiar, and
not intermittent like the rest, the purl of water falling into a pool.





Bathsheba was momentarily relieved of that wayward heaviness of the
past twenty-four hours which had quenched the vitality of youth in her
without substituting the philosophy of maturer years, and she resolved
to go out and walk a little way.So when breakfast was over, she put on
her bonnet, and took a direction towards the church. It was nine o'clock,
and the men having returned to work again from their first meal, she was
not likely to meet many of them in the road. Knowing that Fanny had been
laid in the reprobates' quarter of the graveyard, called in the parish
"behind church," which was invisible from the road, it was impossible to
resist the impulse to enter and look upon a spot which, from nameless
feelings, she at the same time dreaded to see. She had been unable to
overcome an impression that some connection existed between her rival
and the light through the trees.





Bathsheba collected the flowers, and began planting them with
that sympathetic manipulation of roots and leaves which is so
conspicuous in a woman's gardening, and which flowers seem to
understand and thrive upon
. She requested Oak to get the churchwardens
to turn the leadwork at the mouth of the gurgoyle that hung gaping
down upon them, that by this means the stream might be directed
sideways, and a repetition of the accident prevented. Finally,
with the superfluous magnanimity of a woman whose narrower instincts
have brought down bitterness upon her instead of love, she wiped
the mud spots from the tomb as if she rather liked its words than
otherwise, and went again home.




Chapter 47

Adventures By The Shore


A composite feeling, made up of disgust with the, to him, humdrum
tediousness of a farmer's life, gloomy images of her who lay in the
churchyard, remorse, and a general averseness to his wife's society,
impelled him to seek a home in any place on earth save Weatherbury.
The sad accessories of Fanny's end confronted him as vivid pictures
which threatened to be indelible, and made life in Bathsheba's house
intolerable.




At last he reached the summit, and a wide and novel prospect
burst upon him with an effect almost like that of the Pacific
upon Balboa's gaze. The broad steely sea, marked only by faint
lines, which had a semblance of being etched thereon to a degree
not deep enough to disturb its general evenness, stretched the
whole width of his front and round to the right, where, near the
town and port of Budmouth, the sun bristled down upon it, and
banished all colour, to substitute in its place a clear oily
polish. Nothing moved in sky, land, or sea, except
a frill of
milkwhite foam
along the nearer angles of the shore, shreds of
which licked the contiguous stones like tongues
.




Chapter 48

Doubts Arise--Doubts Linger


Bathsheba underwent the enlargement of her husband's absence from
hours to days with a slight feeling of surprise, and a slight feeling
of relief; yet neither sensation rose at any time far above the level
commonly designated as indifference. She belonged to him: the certainties
of that position were so well defined, and the reasonable probabilities
of its issue so bounded that she could not speculate on contingencies.
Taking no further interest in herself as a splendid woman, she acquired
the indifferent feelings of an outsider in contemplating her probable
fate as a singular wretch; for Bathsheba drew herself and her future
in colours that no reality could
exceed for darkness. Her original
vigorous
pride of youth had sickened,





Hence Bathsheba lived in a perception that her purposes were broken off.
She was not a woman who could hope on without good materials for the
process, differing thus from the less far-sighted and energetic, though
more petted ones of the sex, with whom hope goes on as a sort of
clockwork which the merest food and shelter are sufficient to wind up
;
and perceiving clearly that her mistake had been a fatal one, she
accepted her position, and waited coldly for the end.




As if endowed with the spirit of prophecy, Bathsheba gasped out,
"No, it is not true; it cannot be true!" Then she said and heard no
more. The ice of self-command which had latterly gathered over her
was broken, and the currents burst forth again, and overwhelmed her.
A darkness came into her eyes, and she fell.

But not to the ground. A
gloomy man, who had been observing her from
under the portico of the old corn-exchange when she passed through the
group without, stepped quickly to her side at the moment of her
exclamation, and caught her in his arms as she sank down.




Chapter 49

Oak's Advancement--A Great Hope


Boldwood lived secluded and inactive. Much of his wheat and all his
barley of that season had been spoilt by the rain. It sprouted, grew
into intricate mats, and was ultimately thrown to the pigs in armfuls.
The strange neglect which had produced this ruin and waste became the
subject of whispered talk among all the people round; and it was
elicited from one of Boldwood's men that forgetfulness had nothing to
do with it, for he had been reminded of the danger to his corn as many
times and as persistently as inferiors dared to do. The sight of the
pigs turning in disgust from the rotten ears seemed to arouse Boldwood,
and he one evening sent for Oak.




All was harmoniously arranged at last, and we now see Oak mounted
on a strong cob, and daily trotting the length breadth of about
two thousand acres in a cheerful spirit of surveillance, as if the
crops all belonged to him--the actual mistress of the one-half and
the master of the other, sitting in their respective homes in gloomy
and sad
seclusion.





To the eyes of the middle-aged, Bathsheba was perhaps additionally
charming just now. Her exuberance of spirit was pruned down; the
original phantom of delight had shown herself to be not too bright
for human nature's daily food
, and she had been able to enter this
second poetical phase without losing much of the first in the process.




Chapter 50

The Sheep Fair--Troy Touches His Wife's Hand


He ultimately worked his passage to the United States, where he made
a precarious living in various towns as Professor of Gymnastics, Sword
Exercise, Fencing, and Pugilism. A few months were sufficient to give
him a distaste for this kind of life. There was a certain animal form
of
refinement in his nature; and however pleasant a strange condition
might be whilst privations were easily warded off, it was disadvantageously
coarse when money was short.





Bathsheba was not a women to be made a fool of, or a woman to suffer
in silence; and how could he endure existence with a spirited wife to
whom at first entering he would be beholden for food and lodging?
Moreover, it was not at all unlikely that his wife would fail at her
farming, if she had not already done so; and he would then become liable
for her maintenance: and what a life such a future of poverty with her
would be, the spectre of Fanny constantly between them, harrowing his
temper
and embittering her words!





The interior was shadowy with a peculiar shade. The strange luminous
semi-opacities of fine autumn afternoons and eves intensified into
Rembrandt effects the few yellow sunbeams which came through holes
and divisions in the canvas, and spirted like jets of gold-dust across
the dusky blue atmosphere of haze pervading the tent, until they
alighted on inner surfaces of cloth opposite, and shone like little
lamps suspended there
.





She looked so charming and fair that his cool mood about Weatherbury
people was changed. He had not expected her to exercise this power
over him in the
twinkling of an eye. Should he go on, and care nothing?
He could not bring himself to do that. Beyond a politic wish to remain
unknown, there suddenly arose in him now a sense of shame at the
possibility that his attractive young wife, who already despised him,
should despise him more by discovering him in so mean a condition
after so long a time. He actually blushed at the thought, and was
vexed beyond measure that his sentiments of dislike towards
Weatherbury should have led him to dally about the country in
this way.





Bathsheba, being in a negligent mood, leant so idly against the canvas
that it was pressed to the shape of her shoulder, and she was, in fact,
as good as in Troy's arms; and he was obliged to keep his breast carefully
backward that she might not feel its warmth through the cloth as he gazed
in.

Troy found unexpected chords of feeling to be stirred again within him
as
they had been stirred earlier in the day. She was handsome as ever, and she
was his. It was some minutes before he could counteract his sudden wish to
go in, and claim her.





For yet another time he looked at the fair hand, and saw the pink
finger-tips, and the blue veins of the wrist, encircled by a bracelet
of coral chippings which she wore: how familiar it all was to him!
Then, with the lightning action in which he was such an adept, he
noiselessly slipped his hand under the bottom of the tent-cloth,
which was far from being pinned tightly down, lifted it a little way,
keeping his eye to the hole, snatched the note from her fingers,
dropped the canvas, and ran away in the gloom towards the bank and
ditch, smiling at the scream of astonishment which burst from her.




Chapter 51

Bathsheba Talks With Her Outrider


The keen instincts of Bathsheba had perceived that the farmer's staunch
devotion to herself was still undiminished, and she sympathized deeply.
The sight had quite depressed her this evening; had reminded her of her
folly; she wished anew, as she had wished many months ago, for some means
of making reparation for her fault. Hence her pity for the man who so
persistently loved on to his own injury and permanent gloom had betrayed
Bathsheba into an injudicious considerateness of manner, which appeared
almost like tenderness, and gave new vigour to the exquisite dream of a
Jacob's seven years service in poor Boldwood's mind.


-----------------------------------------------------------------

"Do you remember when I carried you fainting in my arms into the
King's Arms, in Casterbridge? Every dog has his day: that was mine."

"I know--I know it all," she said, hurriedly.

"I, for one, shall never cease regretting that events so fell out as
to deny you to me."

"I, too, am very sorry," she said, and then checked herself. "I mean,
you know, I am sorry you thought I--"

"I have always this dreary pleasure in thinking over those past times
with you--that I was something to you before HE was anything, and that
you belonged ALMOST to me. But, of course, that's nothing. You never
liked me."

"I did; and respected you, too."

"Do you now?"

"Yes."

"Which?"

"How do you mean which?"

"Do you like me, or do you respect me?"

"I don't know--at least, I cannot tell you. It is difficult for a woman
to define her feelings in language which is chiefly made by men to express
theirs.


-----------------------------------------------------------------

"I will never marry another man whilst you wish me to be your wife,
whatever comes--but to say more--you have taken me so by surprise--"

"But let it stand in these simple words--that in six years' time you
will be my wife? Unexpected accidents we'll not mention, because those,
of course, must be given way to. Now, this time I know you will keep
your word."

"That's why I hesitate to give it."

"But do give it! Remember the past, and be kind."

She breathed; and then said mournfully: "Oh what shall I do? I don't
love you, and I much fear that I never shall love you as much as a woman
ought to love a husband. If you, sir, know that, and I can yet give you
happiness by a mere promise to marry at the end of six years, if my
husband should not come back, it is a great honour to me. And if you
value such an act of friendship from a woman who doesn't esteem herself
as she did, and has little love left, why I--I will--"


"Promise!"

"--Consider, if I cannot promise soon."

"But soon is perhaps never?"

"Oh no, it is not! I mean soon. Christmas, we'll say."

"Christmas!" He said nothing further till he added: "Well, I'll say no
more to you about it till that time."


-------------------------------------------------------------


It is hardly too much to say that she felt coerced by a force
stronger than her own will, not only into the act of promising
upon this singularly remote and vague matter, but into the emotion
of
fancying that she ought to promise. When the weeks intervening
between the night of this conversation and Christmas day began
perceptibly to diminish, her anxiety and perplexity increased.





Yet in the centremost parts of her complicated heart there existed
at this minute a little pang of disappointment, for a reason she
would not allow herself to recognize. Oak had not once wished her
free that he might marry her himself--had not once said, "I could
wait for you as well as he." That was the insect sting. Not that
she would have listened to any such hypothesis. O no--for wasn't
she saying all the time that such thoughts of the future were
improper, and wasn't Gabriel far too poor a man to speak sentiment
to her? Yet he might have just hinted about that old love of his,
and asked, in a playful off-hand way, if he might speak of it. It
would have seemed pretty and sweet, if no more; and then she would
have shown how kind and inoffensive a woman's "No" can sometimes be.
But to give such cool advice--the very advice she had asked for--it
ruffled our heroine all the afternoon.




Chapter 52

Converging Courses


In spite of all this, the spirit of revelry was wanting in the
atmosphere of the house. Such a thing had never been attempted
before by its owner, and it was now done as by a wrench. Intended
gaieties
would insist upon appearing like solemn grandeurs, the
organization of the whole effort was carried out coldly, by
hirelings, and a shadow seemed to move about the rooms, saying
that the proceedings were unnatural to the place and the lone
man who lived therein, and hence not good.


-------------------------------------------------------------

"Yes--I must own it--I am bright to-night: cheerful and more
than cheerful--so much so that I am almost sad again with the
sense that all of it is passing away. And sometimes, when I am
excessively hopeful and blithe, a trouble is looming in the
distance: so that I often get to look upon gloom in me with
content, and to fear a happy mood. Still this may be absurd--
I feel that it is absurd. Perhaps my day is dawning at last."

"I hope it 'ill be a long and a fair one."

"Thank you--thank you. Yet perhaps my cheerfulness rests on a
slender hope. And yet I trust my hope. It is faith, not hope.
I think this time I reckon with my host.--Oak, my hands are a
little shaky, or something; I can't tie this neckerchief properly.
Perhaps you will tie it for me. The fact is, I have not been well
lately, you know."

"I am sorry to hear that, sir."

"Oh, it's nothing. I want it done as well as you can, please.
Is there any late knot in fashion, Oak?"

"I don't know, sir," said Oak. His tone had sunk to sadness.

Boldwood approached Gabriel, and as Oak tied the neckerchief
the farmer went on feverishly--

"Does a woman keep her promise, Gabriel?"

"If it is not inconvenient to her she may."

"--Or rather an implied promise."

"I won't answer for her implying," said Oak, with faint bitterness.
"That's a word as full o' holes as a sieve with them."


-------------------------------------------------------------

"Oh, she took no great heed of me, ye may well fancy; but she
looked well enough, far's I know. Just flashed her haughty eyes
upon my poor scram body, and then let them go past me to what
was yond, much as if I'd been no more than a leafless tree.
She had just got off her mare to look at the last wring-down
of cider for the year; she had been riding, and so her colours
were up and her breath rather quick, so that her bosom plimmed
and fell--plimmed and fell--every time plain to my eye
."


-------------------------------------------------------------

"'Twill puzzle him to manage her, or any other man of his compass!"

"I don't know about that. She can't do without him, and knowing it
well he's pretty independent. And she've a few soft corners to her mind,
though I've never been able to get into one
, the devil's in't!"

"Ah, baily, she's a notch above you, and you must own it: a higher class
of animal--a finer tissue
. However, stick to me, and neither this haughty
goddess, dashing piece of womanhood, Juno-wife of mine (Juno was a goddess,
you know), nor anybody else shall hurt you. "


-------------------------------------------------------------

As Boldwood continued awhile in his room alone--ready and
dressed to receive his company--the mood of anxiety about
his appearance seemed to pass away, and to be succeeded by
a deep solemnity. He looked out of the window, and regarded
the dim outline of the trees upon the sky, and the twilight
deepening to darkness.





It contained a woman's finger-ring, set all the way round
with small diamonds, and from its appearance had evidently
been recently purchased. Boldwood's eyes dwelt upon its many
sparkles a long tim
e, though that its material aspect concerned
him little was plain from his manner and mien, which were those
of a mind following out the presumed thread of that jewel's
future history
.


-------------------------------------------------------------

"There she is with plenty of money, and a house and farm,
and horses, and comfort, and here am I living from hand
to mouth--a needy adventurer."



Chapter 53

Concurritur--Horae Momento


"God send that it mid be a lie, for though Henery Fray and some
of 'em do speak against her, she's never been anything but fair
to me. She's hot and hasty, but she's a brave girl who'll never
tell a lie however much the truth may harm her
, and I've no cause
to wish her evil."

"She never do tell women's little lies, that's true; and 'tis a
thing that can be said of very few. Ay, all the harm she thinks
she says to yer face: there's nothing underhand wi' her.
"





The younger men and maids were at last just beginning to dance.
Bathsheba had been perplexed how to act, for she was not much more
than a slim young maid herself, and the weight of stateliness sat heavy
upon her
. Sometimes she thought she ought not to have come under
any circumstances; then she considered what cold unkindness that
would have been, and finally resolved upon the middle course of
staying for about an hour only, and gliding off unobserved



-------------------------------------------------------------

"Now, that's evasion! Why, the promise. I don't want to intrude
upon you at all, or to let it become known to anybody. But do give
your word! A mere business compact, you know, between two people
who are beyond the influence of passion
." Boldwood knew how false
this picture was as regarded himself; but he had proved that it was
the only tone in which she would allow him to approach her. "A promise
to marry me at the end of five years and three-quarters. You owe it
to me!"

"I feel that I do," said Bathsheba; "that is, if you demand it. But
I am a changed woman--an unhappy woman--and not--not--"

"You are still a very beautiful woman," said Boldwood. Honesty and
pure conviction suggested the remark, unaccompanied by any perception
that it might have been adopted by blunt flattery to soothe and win her.

However, it had not much effect now, for she said, in a passionless
murmur which was in itself a proof of her words: "I have no feeling
in the matter at all
. And I don't at all know what is right to do in
my difficult position, and I have nobody to advise me. "


-------------------------------------------------------------

"Say the words, dear one, and the subject shall be dismissed; a
blissful loving intimacy of six years, and then marriage--O Bathsheba,
say them!" he begged in a husky voice, unable to sustain the forms of
mere friendship any longer. "Promise yourself to me; I deserve it,
indeed I do, for I have loved you more than anybody in the world!
And if I said hasty words and showed uncalled-for heat of manner
towards you, believe me, dear, I did not mean to distress you; I
was in agony, Bathsheba, and I did not know what I said. You wouldn't
let a dog suffer what I have suffered, could you but know it!
Sometimes I shrink from your knowing what I have felt for you,
and sometimes I am distressed that all of it you never will know.
Be gracious, and give up a little to me, when I would give up my
life for you!
"

The trimmings of her dress, as they quivered against the light,
showed how
agitated she was, and at last she burst out crying.
"And you'll not--press me--about anything more--if I say in five
or six years?" she sobbed, when she had power to frame the words.


-------------------------------------------------------------

"Don't insist, Mr. Boldwood--don't!" In her trouble at not being
able to get her hand away from him at once, she stamped passionately
on the floor with one foot, and tears crowded to her eyes again.

"It means simply a pledge--no sentiment--the seal of a practical
compact
," he said more quietly, but still retaining her hand in his
firm grasp. "Come, now!" And Boldwood slipped the ring on her finger.

"I cannot wear it," she said, weeping as if her heart would break.
"You frighten me, almost. So wild a scheme! Please let me go home!"

"Only to-night: wear it just to-night, to please me!"

Bathsheba sat down in a chair, and buried her face in her handkerchief,
though Boldwood kept her hand yet. At length she said, in a sort of
hopeless whisper--

"Very well, then, I will to-night, if you wish it so earnestly. Now
loosen my hand; I will, indeed I will wear it to-night."

"And it shall be the beginning of a pleasant secret courtship of six
years, with a wedding at the end?"

"It must be, I suppose, since you will have it so!" she said, fairly
beaten into non-resistance.

Boldwood pressed her hand, and allowed it to drop in her lap. "I am
happy now," he said. "God bless you!"


-------------------------------------------------------------

Boldwood was among those who did not notice that he was Troy. "Come in,
come in!" he repeated, cheerfully, "and drain a Christmas beaker with
us, stranger!"

Troy next advanced into the middle of the room, took off his cap, turned
down his coat-collar, and looked Boldwood in the face. Even then Boldwood
did not recognize that the impersonator of Heaven's persistent irony towards
him, who had once before broken in upon his bliss, scourged him, and snatched
his
delight away, had come to do these things a second time. Troy began to
laugh a mechanical laugh: Boldwood recognized him now.

Troy turned to Bathsheba. The poor girl's wretchedness at this time was
beyond all fancy or narration. She had sunk down on the lowest stair; and
there she sat, her mouth blue and dry, and her dark eyes fixed vacantly upon
him
, as if she wondered whether it were not all a terrible illusion.





Troy stretched out his hand to pull her her towards him, when
she quickly shrank back. This visible dread of him seemed to
irritate Troy, and he seized her arm and pulled it sharply.
Whether his grasp pinched her, or whether his mere touch was
the cause, was never known, but at the moment of his seizure
she writhed, and gave a quick, low scream.

The scream had been heard but a few seconds when it was followed
by sudden deafening report that echoed through the room and
stupefied them all. The oak partition shook with the concussion,
and the place was filled with grey smoke.

In bewilderment they turned their eyes to Boldwood. At his back,
as stood before the fireplace, was a gun-rack, as is usual in
farmhouses, constructed to hold two guns. When Bathsheba had
cried out in her husband's grasp, Boldwood's face of gnashing
despair
had changed. The veins had swollen, and a frenzied look
had
gleamed in his eye. He had turned quickly, taken one of the
guns, cocked it, and at once discharged it at Troy.



Chapter 54

After The Shock


With one hand she held her handkerchief to his breast and covered
the wound
, though scarcely a single drop of blood had flowed, and
with the other she tightly clasped one of his. The household convulsion
had made her herself again. The temporary coma had ceased, and activity
had come with the necessity for it. Deeds of endurance, which seem
ordinary in philosophy, are rare in conduct, and Bathsheba was astonishing
all around her now, for her philosophy was her conduct, and she seldom
thought practicable what she did not practise. She was of the stuff of
which great men's mothers are made. She was indispensable to high
generation, hated at tea parties, feared in shops, and loved at crises
.





"It is all done, indeed, as she says," remarked Mr. Aldritch, in
a subdued voice. "The body has been undressed and properly laid out
in grave clothes. Gracious Heaven--this mere girl! She must have
the nerve of a stoic
!"

"The heart of a wife merely," floated in a whisper about the ears
of the three, and turning they saw Bathsheba in the midst of them.
Then, as if at that instant to prove that her fortitude had been
more of will than of spontaneity, she silently sank down between
them and was a shapeless heap of drapery on the floor. The simple
consciousness that
superhuman strain was no longer required had at
once
put a period to her power to continue it.


Chapter 55

The March Following--"Bathsheba Boldwood"


In a locked closet was now discovered an extraordinary collection of
articles. There were several sets of ladies' dresses in the piece, of
sundry expensive materials; silks and satins, poplins and velvets, all
of colours which from Bathsheba's style of dress might have been judged
to be her favourites. There were two muffs, sable and ermine. Above all
there was a case of jewellery, containing four heavy gold bracelets and
several lockets and rings, all of fine quality and manufacture. These
things had been bought in Bath and other towns from time to time, and
brought home by stealth. They were all carefully packed in paper, and
each package was labelled "Bathsheba Boldwood," a date being subjoined
six years in advance in every instance
.





At that time Gabriel came from Casterbridge Gaol, whither he had
been to wish Boldwood good-bye, and turned down a by-street to avoid
the town. When past the last house he heard a hammering, and lifting
his bowed head he looked back for a moment. Over the chimneys he could
see the upper part of the gaol entrance, rich and glowing in the afternoon
sun
, and some moving figures were there. They were carpenters lifting a
post into a
vertical position within the parapet. He withdrew his eyes
quickly, and hastened on.


Chapter 56

Beauty In Loneliness--After All


The door was closed, and the choir was learning a new hymn. Bathsheba
was stirred by emotions which latterly she had assumed to be altogether
dead within her. The little attenuated voices of the children brought to
her ear in distinct utterance the words they sang without thought or
comprehension--

Lead, kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom,
Lead Thou me on.


Bathsheba's feeling was always to some extent dependent upon her whim,
as is the case with many other women. Something big came into her throat
and an uprising to her eyes--and she thought that she would allow the
imminent tears to flow if they wished. They did flow and plenteously,
and one fell upon the stone bench beside her. Once that she had begun
to cry for she hardly knew what, she could not leave off for crowding
thoughts she knew too well. She would have given anything in the world
to be, as those children were, unconcerned at the meaning of their words,
because too innocent to feel the necessity for any such expression. All
the impassioned scenes of her brief experience seemed to revive with
added emotion at that moment, and those scenes which had been without
emotion during enactment had emotion then
. Yet grief came to her rather
as a luxury than as the scourge of former times.





"And what shall I do without you? Oh, Gabriel, I don't think you
ought to go away. You've been with me so long--through bright times
and dark times--such old friends as we are--that it seems unkind almost.
I had fancied that if you leased the other farm as master, you might
still give a helping look across at mine. And now going away!"

"I would have willingly."

"Yet now that I am more helpless than ever you go away!"

"Yes, that's the ill fortune o' it,"
said Gabriel, in a distressed tone.
"And it is because of that very helplessness that I feel bound to go.
Good afternoon, ma'am" he concluded, in evident anxiety to get away,
and at once went out of the churchyard by a path she could follow on no
pretence whatever.

Bathsheba went home, her mind occupied with a new trouble, which being
rather
harassing than deadly was calculated to do good by diverting her
from the chronic gloom of her life. She was set thinking a great deal
about Oak and of his wish to shun her; and there occurred to Bathsheba
several incidents of her latter intercourse with him, which, trivial
when singly viewed, amounted together to a perceptible disinclination
for her society
. It broke upon her at length as a great pain that her
last old disciple was about to forsake her and flee.





Bathsheba actually sat and cried over this letter most bitterly. She
was
aggrieved and wounded that the possession of hopeless love from
Gabriel, which she had grown to regard as her inalienable right for
life, should have been
withdrawn just at his own pleasure in this way.
She was bewildered too by the prospect of having to rely on her own
resources again: it seemed to herself that she never could again acquire
energy sufficient to go to market, barter, and sell. Since Troy's death
Oak had attended all sales and fairs for her, transacting her business
at the same time with his own. What should she do now? Her life was
becoming a desolation.

So desolate was Bathsheba this evening, that in an absolute hunger for
pity and sympathy, and miserable in that she appeared to have outlived
the only true friendship she had ever owned, she put on her bonnet and
cloak and went down to Oak's house just after sunset, guided on her way
by the pale primrose rays of a crescent moon a few days old.

A lively firelight shone from the window, but nobody was visible in the
room.



------------------------------------------------------------

"Will you sit down, please? Here's a chair, and there's one, too. I am
sorry that my chairs all have wood seats, and are rather hard, but I--was
thinking of getting some new ones." Oak placed two or three for her.

"They are quite easy enough for me."

So down she sat, and down sat he, the fire dancing in their faces, and
upon the old furniture
,

all a-sheenen
Wi' long years o' handlen,


that formed Oak's array of household possessions, which sent back a dancing
reflection in reply. It was very odd to these two persons, who knew each
other passing well, that the mere circumstance of their meeting in a new
place and in a new way should make them so awkward and constrained. In the
fields, or at her house, there had never been any embarrassment; but now
that Oak had become the entertainer their lives seemed to be moved back
again to the days when they were strangers.


------------------------------------------------------------

"Yes; of course, it is too absurd. I don't desire any such thing;
I should think that was plain enough by this time. Surely, surely
you be the last person in the world I think of marrying. It is too
absurd, as you say."

"'Too--s-s-soon' were the words I used."

"I must beg your pardon for correcting you, but you said, 'too absurd,'
and so do I."

"I beg your pardon too!" she returned, with tears in her eyes. "'Too
soon' was what I said. But it doesn't matter a bit--not at all--but
I only meant, 'too soon.' Indeed, I didn't, Mr. Oak, and you must
believe me!"

Gabriel looked her long in the face, but the firelight being faint
there was not much to be seen. "Bathsheba," he said, tenderly and
in surprise, and coming closer: "if I only knew one thing--whether
you would allow me to love you and win you, and marry you after
all--
if I only knew that!"

"But you never will know," she murmured.

"Why?"

"Because you never ask."

"Oh--Oh!" said Gabriel, with a low laugh of joyousness. "My own dear--"


"You ought not to have sent me that harsh letter this morning," she
interrupted. "It shows you didn't care a bit about me, and were ready
to desert me like all the rest of them! It was very cruel of you,
considering I was the first sweetheart that you ever had, and you were
the first I ever had; and I shall not forget it!"

"Now, Bathsheba, was ever anybody so
provoking," he said, laughing.
"You know it was purely that I, as an unmarried man, carrying on a
business for you as a very taking young woman, had a proper hard part
to play--more particular that people knew I had a sort of feeling for
'ee; and I fancied, from the way we were mentioned together, that it
might injure your good name. Nobody knows the
heat and fret I have
been caused by it."


"And was that all?"

"All."

"Oh, how glad I am I came!" she exclaimed, thankfully, as she rose from
her seat. "I have thought so much more of you since I fancied you did
not want even to see me again.
But I must be going now, or I shall be
missed. Why Gabriel," she said, with a slight laugh, as they went to
the door, "it seems exactly as if I had come courting you--how dreadful!"


"And quite right too," said Oak. "I've danced at your skittish heels, my
beautiful Bathsheba, for many a long mile, and many a long day; and it
is hard to begrudge me this one visit."


He accompanied her up the hill, explaining to her the details of his
forthcoming tenure of the other farm. They spoke very little of their
mutual feeling; pretty phrases and warm expressions being probably
unnecessary between such tried friends. Theirs was that substantial
affection which arises (if any arises at all) when the two who are
thrown together b
egin first by knowing the rougher sides of each other's
character, and not the best till further on, the romance growing up in
the interstices of a mass of hard prosaic reality
. This good-fellowship--
camaraderie--usually occurring through similarity of pursuits,
is
unfortunately seldom superadded to love between the sexes, because men
and women associate, not in their labours, but in their pleasures merely.
Where, however, happy circumstance permits its development, the compounded
feeling proves itself to be the only love which is strong as death--that
love which many waters cannot quench, nor the floods drown, beside which
the passion usually called by the name is evanescent as steam
.




Chapter 57

A Foggy Night And Morning--Conclusion


"Indeed it is; how can you tell such a story, Liddy? I know it
must be ever so much past seven. Come to my room as soon as you
can; I want you to give my hair a good brushing."

When Liddy came to Bathsheba's room her mistress was already
waiting. Liddy could not understand this extraordinary promptness.
"Whatever IS going on, ma'am?" she said.

"Well, I'll tell you," said Bathsheba, with a mischievous smile
in her bright eyes. "Farmer Oak is coming here to dine with me
to-day!"

"Farmer Oak--and nobody else?--you two alone?"

"Yes."

"But is it safe, ma'am, after what's been said?" asked her companion,
dubiously. "A woman's good name is such a perishable article that--"

Bathsheba laughed with a flushed cheek, and whispered in Liddy's ear,
although there was nobody present. Then Liddy stared and exclaimed,
"Souls alive, what news! It makes my heart go quite bumpity-bump!"

"It makes mine rather furious, too," said Bathsheba. "However,
there's no getting out of it now!"





Oak came out of his house, and

Went up the hill side
With that sort of stride
A man puts out when walking in search of a bride,



and knocked Bathsheba's door. Ten minutes later a large and
a smaller umbrella might have been seen moving from the same
door, and through the mist along the road to the church. The
distance was not more than a quarter of a mile, and these two
sensible persons deemed it unnecessary to drive
. An observer
must have been very close indeed to discover that the forms
under the umbrellas were those of Oak and Bathsheba, arm-in-arm
for the first time in their lives, Oak in a greatcoat extending
to his knees, and Bathsheba in a cloak that reached her clogs.
Yet, though so plainly dressed, there was a certain rejuvenated
appearance about her:--

As though a rose should shut and be a bud again. [Line 243]

Repose had again incarnadined her cheeks; and having, at Gabriel's
request, arranged her hair this morning as she had worn it years
ago on Norcombe Hill, she seemed in his eyes remarkably like a girl
of that fascinating dream
, which, considering that she was now only
three or four-and-twenty, was perhaps not very wonderful. In the
church were Tall, Liddy, and the parson, and in a remarkably short
space of time the deed was done
.





The rays fell upon a group of male figures gathered upon the gravel
in front, who, when they saw the newly-married couple in the porch,
set up a loud "Hurrah!" and at the same moment bang again went the
cannon in the background, followed by a hideous clang of music from
a drum, tambourine, clarionet, serpent, hautboy, tenor-viol, and
double-bass--the only remaining relics of the true and original
Weatherbury band--
venerable worm-eaten instruments, which had
celebrated in their own persons the victories of Marlborough,
under the fingers of the forefathers of those who played them
now
.





"Thank ye all the same; but we'll call at a more seemly time.
However, we couldn't think of letting the day pass without a
note of admiration of some sort. If ye could send a drop of som'at
down to Warren's, why so it is. Here's long life and happiness
to neighbour Oak and his comely bride!"

"Thank ye; thank ye all," said Gabriel. "A bit and a drop shall
be sent to Warren's for ye at once. I had a thought that we might
very likely get a salute of some sort from our old friends, and I
was saying so to my wife but now."

"Faith," said Coggan, in a critical tone, turning to his companions,
"the man hev learnt to say 'my wife' in a wonderful naterel way
,
considering how very youthful he is in wedlock as yet--hey, neighbours
all?"

"I never heerd a skilful old married feller of twenty years' standing
pipe 'my wife' in a more used note than 'a did," said Jacob Smallbury.
"It might have been a little more true to nater if't had been spoke a
little chillier, but that wasn't to be expected just now."

"That improvement will come wi' time," said Jan, twirling his eye.

Then Oak laughed, and Bathsheba smiled (for she never laughed readily
now), and their friends turned to go.

"Yes; I suppose that's the size o't," said Joseph Poorgrass with a
cheerful sigh as they moved away; "and I wish him joy o' her; though
I were once or twice upon saying to-day with holy Hosea, in my scripture
manner, which is my second nature, 'Ephraim is joined to idols: let him
alone.' But since 'tis as 'tis, why, it might have been worse, and I feel
my thanks accordingly."

Far From The Madding Crowd

(1874)

Characters

 

Gabriel Oak 

The novel's hero, Gabriel Oak is a farmer, shepherd, and bailiff, marked by his humble and honest ways, his exceptional skill with animals and farming, and an unparalleled loyalty. He is Bathsheba's first suitor, and later later the bailiff on her farm. He occupies the position of quiet observer throughout most of the book, yet he knows just when to step in to save Bathsheba and others from catastrophe.

 

Bathsheba Everdene 

The beautiful young woman at the center of the novel, who must choose among three very different suitors. At the beginning of the novel, she is penniless, but she quickly inherits and learns to run a farm in Weatherbury, where most of the novel takes place.Her first characteristic that we learn about is her vanity, and Hardy continually shows her to be rash and impulsive. However, not only is she independent in spirit, she is independent financially; this allows Hardy to use her character to explore the danger that such a woman faces of losing her identity and lifestyle through marriage.

 

Francis (Frank) Troy 

The novel's antagonist, Troy is a less responsible male equivalent of Bathsheba. He is handsome, vain, young, and irresponsible, though he is capable of love. Early in the novel he is involved with Fanny Robin and gets her pregnant. At first, he plans to marry her, but when they miscommunicate about which church to meet at, he angrily refuses to marry her, and she is ruined. He forgets her and marries the rich, beautiful Bathsheba. Yet when Fanny dies of poverty and exhaustion later in the novel with his child in her arms, he cannot forgive himself.

 

William Boldwood  

Bathsheba's second suitor and the owner of a nearby farm, Boldwood, as his name suggests, is a somewhat wooden, reserved man. He seems unable to fall in love until Bathsheba sends him a valentine on a whim, and suddenly he develops feelings for her. Once he is convinced he loves her, he refuses to give up his pursuit of her, and he is no longer rational. Ultimately, he becomes crazy with obsession.

 

Fanny Robin 

A young orphaned servant girl at the farm who runs away the night Gabriel arrives, attempts to marry Sergeant Troy, and finally dies giving birth to his child at the poor house in Casterbridge. She is a foil to Bathsheba, showing the fate of women who are not well cared for in this society.

 

Liddy Smallbury 

Bathsheba's maid and confidant, of about the same age as Bathsheba

 

Jan Coggan 

Farm laborer and friend to Gabriel Oak

 

Joseph Poorgrass 

Shy, timid farm laborer who blushes easily, Poorgrass carries Fanny's coffin from Casterbridge back to the farm for burial.

 

Cainy Ball 

Young boy who works as Gabriel Oak's assistant shepherd on the Everdene farm.

 

Pennyways

The bailiff on Bathsheba's farm who is caught stealing grain and dismissed. He disappears for most of the novel until he recognizes Troy at Greenhill Fair and helps Troy surprise Bathsheba at Boldwood's Christmas party.