Copyright
Thomas Hardy.

Under the greenwood tree or The mellstock quire : a rural painting of the dutch school online

. (page 1 of 14)
Online LibraryThomas HardyUnder the greenwood tree or The mellstock quire : a rural painting of the dutch school → online text (page 1 of 14)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


LIBRARY

UNIv :>l!:iTYOF
CALirO.".N!A ,



masb's ©veat mopcl XtDrarg



UNDER THE
GREENWOOD TREE



Nash*s Great Novel Library

THE FOUR FEATHERS

By A. E. W. Mason.
RODNEY STONE

By A. Conan Doyle.
TRISTRAM OF BLENT

By Anthony Hope.
RED POTTAGE

By Mary Cholmondeley.
ALMAYER'S FOLLY

By Joseph Conrad.
IN KEDAR'S TENTS

By Henry Seton Merriman.
UNDER THE GREENWOOD TREE

By Thomas Hardy.
THE BLUE LAGOON

By H. de Vera Sttcpcole.
ANN VERONICA

By H. G. Wells.
QUINNEYS'

By Horace Annesley Vachell.
THE STRANGE CASE OF
DR. JEKYLL & MR. HYDE

By Robert Louis Stevenson.
THE HOUSE OF THE WOLF

By Stanley Weyman.
THE WOMAN WITH THE FAN

By Robert Hichens.
THE GUARDED FLAME

By W. B. Maxwell.
THE SECRET WOMAN

By Eden Phillpotts.
SHE

By H. Rider Haggard.



/;V PREPARATION.
THE REFUGEES

By A. Conan Doyle.
THE GATELESS BARRIER

By Lucas Malet.
THE DEEMSTER

By Hall Caine.



UNDER THE
GREENWOOD TREE



OR



THE MELLSTOCK QUIRE

A RURAL PAINTING OF THE DUTCH SCHOOL



By
THOMAS HARDY



London

EVELEIGH NASH & GRAYSON LTD.
148, Strand



'"^' ftKlfc"



I



CONTENTS.






Part I. Minitt.






CHAP.

I. Mellstock-lanb






rAOK

X


u. The Tranter's .






► . 8


III. The assembled Choir






. 21


IV. Going the Rounds .






. 33


V. The Listeners .






. 44


VI. Christmas Morning .






. 56


VII. The Tranter's Party






. 70


VIII. They dance more wildly






. . 84


IX. Dick oaixs at the School




• 4


. 103



Part II. jjpnng.

I. Passing by the School .
u. A Meeting of the Choir .



108
109



vi CONTENTS,



HI. A Turn in the Discussion
IV. The Interview with the Vicar
V. Eeturning Homeward
vj. Yalbury Wood and the Keeper's House
VII. Dick makes himself Useful .
VIII. Dick meets his Father .



Part III. ^ujumer,



I. Driving out of Budmouth
II. Farther along the Eoad

III. A Confession .

IV. An Arrangement .



119
128
148
153
173
182



196

205
217
227



Part IY. g^ufunm.

I. Going ;N"utting . . » • #233
II. Honey-taking, and Afterwards . •245

III. Fancy in the Eain . . * , ,264

IV. The Spell 271

V. After gaining her Point . • • 280
VL Into Temptation 288

VII. A Crisis . . . • • • • 298



CONTENTS. vu



Part V. CoJTtlttgrott.

CHAP. PlOB

I. * The Knot there's no Untying' , . 30?

II. Under the Greenwood Treb , • • 33^



UNDER TEE GREENWOOD TRER



Part I. WiivdJ^X,



Chapter I. Mellstook-lanb.

To dwellers in a wood, almost every species
of tree has its voice as well as its feature.
At the passing of the breeze, the fir-trees
sob and moan no less distinctly than they
rock ; the holly whistles as it battles with
itself; the ash hisses amid its quiverings;
the beech rustles while its flat boughs rise
and fall. And winter, which modifies the
note of such trees as shed their leaves, does
not destroy its individuality.

On a cold and starry Christmas-eve less
than a generation ago, a man was passing
along a lane in the darkness of a plantation



2 UNDER THE GREENWOOD TREE.

that whispered thus distinctively to his in-
telligence. All the evidences of his nature
were those afforded by the spirit of his foot-
steps, which succeeded each other lightly
and quickly, and by the liveliness of his
voice as he sang in a rural cadence :

* With the rose and the lily
And the daffodowndilly,
The lads and the lasses a-sheep-shearing go.*

The lonely lane he was following con-
nected the hamlets of Mellstock and Lew-
gate, and to his eyes, casually glancing up-
ward, the silver and black-stemmed birches
with their characteristic tufts, the pale gray
boughs of oak, the dark-creviced elm, all
appeared now as black and flat outlines
upon the sky, wherein the white stars
twinkled so vehemently that their flickering
seemed like the flapping of wings. Within
the woody pass, at a level anything lower
than the horizon, all was dark as the grave.
The copsewood forming the sides of the
boAver interlaced its branches so densely,
even at this season of the year, that the
draught from the north-east flew along the



MELLSTOCK-LANE.



channel with scarcely an interruption from
lateral breezes.

At the termination of the wood, the
white surface of the lane revealed itself be-
tween the dark hedgerows, like a ribbon
jagged at the edges ; the irregularity being
caused by temporary accumulations of leaves
extending from the ditch on either side.

The song (many times interrupted by
flitting thoughts which took the place of
several bars, and resumed at a point it
would have reached had its continuity been
unbroken) now received a more palpable
check, in the shape of ^ Ho-i-i-i-i-i I' from
the dark part of the lane in the rear of
the singer, who had just emerged from the
trees.

* Ho-i-i-i-i-i I* he answered with uncon-
cern, stopping and looking round, though
with no idea of seeing anything more than
imagination pictured.

* Is that thee, young Dick Dewy ?' came
from the darkness.

' Ay, sure, Michael Mail.*

' Then why not stop for fellow-craters —



4 UNDER THE GREENWOOD TREE.

going to tliy own father's house too, as we
be, and knowen us so well?'

Young Dick Dewy faced about and con-
tinued his tune in an under-whistle, imply-
ino; that the business of his mouth could
not be checked at a moment's notice by the
placid emotion of friendship.

Having escaped both trees and hedge,
he could now be distinctly seen rising
against the sky, his profile appearing on the
light background like the portrait of a
gentleman in black cardboard. It assumed
the form of a low-crowned hat, an ordi-
nary-shaped nose, an ordinary chin, an ordi-
nary neck, and ordinary shoulders. What he
consisted of farther down was invisible from
lack of sky low enough to picture him on.

Shuffling, halting, irregular footsteps of
various kinds were now heard, coming up
the hill from the dark interior of the grove,
and presently there emerged severally five
men of different ages and gaits, all of them
working villagers of the parish of Mellstock.
They too had lost their rotundity with the
daylight, and advanced against the sky ii^



MELLSTOCK-LANE.



flat outlines, like some procession in Assy-
rian or Egyptian incised work. They repre-
sented the chief portion of Mellstock parish
choir.

The first was a bowed and bent man,
who carried a fiddle under his arm, and
walked as if engaged in studying some sub-
ject connected with the surface of the road.
He was Michael Mail, the man who had
hallooed to Dick.

The next was Mr. Robert Penny, boot-
and shoe-maker ; a little man, who, though
rather round-shouldered, walked as if that
fact had not come to his own knowledge,
moving on with his back very hollow and
his face fixed on the north quarter of the
heavens before him, so that his lower waist-
coat-buttons came first, and then the re-
mainder of his figure. His features were
invisible ; yet when he occasionally looked
round, two faint moons of light gleamed
for an instant from the precincts of his eyes,
denoting that he wore spectacles of a circu-
lar form.

The third was Elias Spinks, who walked



6 UNDER THE GREENWOOD TREE,

perpendicularly and dramatically. The
fourth outline was that of Joseph Bo^vman,
who had now no distinctive appearance be-
yond that of a human being. Finally came
a weak lath-like form, trotting and stumb-
ling along with one shoulder forward and
his head inclined to the left, his arms dang-
ling nervelessly in the wind as if they were
empty sleeves. This was Thomas Leaf.

* Where be the boys?' said Dick to this
somewhat indifferently-matched assembly.

The eldest of the group, Michael Mail,
cleared his throat from a great depth.

' We told them to keep back at home
for a time, thinken they wouldn't be wanted
yet awhile ; and we could choose the tuens,
and so on.'

' Father and grandfather William have
expected ye a little sooner. I have just
been for a run to warm my feet.'

*To be sure father did I To be sure a
did expect us — to taste the little barrel
beyond compare that he's going to tap.'

' 'Od rabbit it all ! Never heard a word
of it P said Mr. Penny, small gleams of de-



MELLSTOCK-LANE,



light appearing upon his spectacle-glasses,
Dick meanwhile singing parenthetically,

* The lads and the lasses a-sheep-shearing go.'

* Neighbours, there's time enough to
drink a sight of drink now afore bedtime,'
said Mail.

'Trew, trew — time enough to get as
drunk as lords!' replied Bowman cheer-
fuUy.

This argument being convincing, they
all advanced between the varying hedges
and the trees dotting them here and there,
kicking their toes occasionally among the
crumpled leaves. Soon appeared glimmer-
ing indications of the few cottages forming
the small hamlet of Lewgate, for which
they were bound, whilst the faint sound
of church- bells ringing a Christmas peal
could be heard floating over upon the breeze
from the direction of Mintfield parish on
the other side of the hills. A little wicket
admitted them to a garden, and they pro-
ceeded up the path to Dick's house.



UNDER THE GREENWOOD TREE,



CHAPTER 11.

THE tranter's.

It was a small low cottage with a thatclied
pyramidal roof, and having dormer win-
dows breaking up into the eaves, a single
chimney standing in the very midst. The
window-shutters were not yet closed, and
the fire- and candle-light within radiated
forth upon the bushes of variegated box and
thick laurestinus growing in a throng out-
side, and upon the bare boughs of several
codlin-trees hanging about in various dis-
torted shapes, the result of early training as
espaliers, combined with careless climbing
into their boughs in later years. The walls of
the dwelling were for the most part covered
with creepers, though these were rather
beaten back from the doorway — a feature
which was worn and scratched by much
passing in and out, giving it by day the
appearance of an old keyhole. Light
streamed through the cracks and joints of a
wooden shed at the end of the cottage, a sight



THE TRANTERS,



which nourished a fancy that the purpose
of the erection must be rather to veil bright
attractions than to shelter unsightly neces-
saries. The noise of a beetle and wedges
and the splintering of wood was periodically
heard from this direction ; and at the other
end of the house a steady regular munch-
ing and the occasional scurr of a rope be-
tokened a stable, and horses feeding with-
in it.

The choir stamped severally on the door-
stone to shake from their boots any frag-
ment of dirt or leaf adhering thereto, then
entered the house, and looked around to
survey the condition of things. Through
the open doorway of a small inner room
on the left hand, of a character between
pantry and cellar, was Dick Dewy^s father,
Reuben, by vocation a 'tranter,^ or irregu-
lar carrier. He was a stout florid man about
forty years of age, who surveyed people up
and down when first making their acquaint-
ance, and generally smiled at the horizon
or other distant object during conversa-
tions with friends, walking about with a



lo UNDER THE GREENWOOD TREE.

steady sway, and turning out his toes very
considerably. Being now occupied in bend-
ing over a hogshead, that stood in the pan-
try ready horsed for the process of broach-
ing, he did not take the trouble to turn or
raise his eyes at the entry of his visitors,
well knowing by their footsteps that they
were the expected old acquaintance.

The main room, on the right, was decked
with bunches of holly and other evergreens,
and from the middle of the huge beam bi-
secting the ceiling hung the mistletoe, of a
size out of all proportion to the room, and
extending so low that it became necessary
for a full-grown person to walk round it in
passing, or run the risk of entangling his
hair. This apartment contained Mrs. Dewy
the tranter's wife, and the four remaining
children, Susan, Jim, Bessy, and Charley,
graduating uniformly though at wide stages
from the age of sixteen to that of four years
— the eldest of the series being separated
from Dick the firstborn by a nearly equal
interval.

Some circumstance having apparently



THE TRANTERS. ii



caused much grief to Charley just previous
to the entry of the choir, he had absently
taken down a looking-glass, and was holding
it before his face to see how the human
countenance appeared when engaged in
crying, which survey led him to pause at
the various points in each wail that were
more than ordinarily striking, for a more
thorough appreciation of the general effect.
Bessy was leaning against a chair, and
glancing under the plaits about the waist
of the plaid frock she wore, to notice the
original unfaded pattern of the material as
there preserved, her face bearing an ex-
pression of regret that the brightness had
passed away from the visible portions. Mrs.
Dewy sat in a brown settle by the side of
the glowing wood fire — so glowing that
with a doubting compression of the lips she
would now and then rise and put her hand
upon the hams and flitches of bacon lining
the chimney, to reassure herself that they
were not being broiled instead of smoked,
— a misfortune that had been known to
happen at Christmas-time.



12 UNDER THE GREENWOOD TREE.

* Hullo, my sonnies, here you be, then !'
said Reuben Dewy at length, standing up
and blowing forth a vehement gust of
breath. * How the blood do puff up in
anybody's head, to be sure, stooping like
that ! I was just coming athwart to hunt
ye out.' He then carefully began to wind a
strip of brown paper round a brass tap he
held in his hand. ' This in the cask here
is a drop o' the right sort' (tapping the
cask) ; ' 'tis a real drop o' cordial from the
best picked apples — Horner's and Cadbury's
— you d'mind the sort, Michael ?' (Michael
nodded.) ^ And there's a sprinkling of they
that grow down by the orchard - rails —
streaked ones — rail apples we d'call 'em, as
'tis by the rails they grow, and not know-
ing the right name. The water-cider from
'em is as good as most people's best cider is.'

'Ay, and of the same make too,' said
Bowman. 'It rained when we wrung it
out, and the water got into it, folk wiU say.
But 'tis on'y an excuse. Watered cider is
too common among us.'

' Yes, yes ; too common it is !' said Spinks



THE TRANTERS. 13

with an inward sigh, whilst his eyes seemed
to be looking at the world in an abstract
form rather than at the scene before him.
' Such poor liquor makes a man's throat
feel very melancholy — and is a disgrace to
the name of stimmilent.'

' Come in, come in, and draw up to the
fire; never mind your shoes,' said Mrs.
Dewy, seeing that all except Dick had
paused to wipe them upon the door-mat.
* I be glad that youVe stepped up-along at
last; and, Susan, you run across to Gam-
mer Caytes's and see if you can borrow
some larger candles than these fourteens.
Tommy Leaf, don't ye be afeardi Come
and sit here in the settle.'

This was addressed to the young man
before mentioned, consisting chiefly of a
human skeleton and a smock-frock, and who
was very awkward in his movements, ap-
parently on account of having grown so
very fast, that before he had had time to
get used to his height he was higher.

' Hee— hee — ay !* replied Leaf, letting
Jiis mouth continue to smile for some time



14 UNDER THE GREENWOOD TREE.

after his mind had done smiling, so that his
teeth remained in view as the most conspi-
cuous members of his body.

' Here, Mr. Penny,' continued Mrs.
Dewy, 'you sit in this chair. And how's
your daughter, Mrs. Brownjohn?'

' Well, I suppose I must say pretty fair,'
adjusting his spectacles a quarter of an inch
to the right. ' But she'll be worse before
she's better, 'a b'lieve.'

' Indeed — poor soul ! And how many
will that make in all, four or five?*

* Five ; they've buried three. Yes, five ;
and she no more than a maid yet. How-
ever, 'twas to be, and none can gainsay
it.'

Mrs. Dewy resigned Mr. Penny. ' Won-
der where your grandfather James is ?' she
inquired of one of the children. * He said
he'd drop in to-night.*

* Out in fuel -house with grandfather
William,' said Jimmy.

* Now let's see what we can do,' was
heard spoken about this time by the tranter
in a private voice to the barrel, beside



THE TRANTERS.



Which he had again established himself)
and was stooping to cut away the cork.

* Reuben, don t make such a mess o*
tapping that barrel as is mostly made in
this house,' Mrs. Dewy cried from the fire-
place. ' I'd tap a hundred without wasting
more than you do in one. Such a squizzling
and squirting job as *tis in your hands.
There, he always was such a clumsy man
indoors.'

^ Ay, ay ; I know you'd tap a hundred,
Ann — I know you would; two hundred,
perhaps. But I can't promise. This is a
old cask, and the wood's rotted away about
the tap-hole. The husbird of a feller Sam
Lawson — that ever I should call'n such,
now he's dead and gone, pore old heart ! —
took me in completely upon the feat of
buying this cask. " Reub," says he — 'a
always used to call me plain Reub, pore old
heart I — '^ Reub," he said, says he, ''that
there cask, Reub, is as good as new; yes,
good as new. 'Tis a wine-hogshead; the
best port- wine in the commonwealth have
been in that there cask ; and you shall have



i6 UNDER THE GREENWOOD TREE,

en for ten shillens, Reub," — \ said, says
he — "he's worth twenty, ay, five -and -
twenty, if he's worth one; and an iron
hoop or two put round en among the
wood ones will make en worth thirty
shillens of any man's money, if — " '

*I think I should have used the eyes
that Providence gave me to use afore I paid
any ten shillens for a jimcrack wine-barrel ;
a saint is sinner enough not to be cheated.
But 'tis like all your family were, so easy
to be deceived.'

' That's as true as gospel of this mem-
ber,' said Reuben.

Mrs. Dewy began a smile at the ans-
wer, then altering her lips and re-folding
them so that it was not a smile, commenced
smoothing little Bessy's hair ; the tranter
having meanwhile suddenly become oblivi-
ous to conversation, occupying himself in a
deliberate cutting and arrangement of some
more brown paper for the broaching oper-
ation.

' Ah, who can believe sellers !' said oW
Michael Mail in a carefully-cautious voice,



THE TRANTERS. 17

by way of tiding-over this critical point of
affairs.

' No one at all,' said Joseph Bowman,
in the tone of a man fully agreeing with
everybody.

* Ay/ said Mail, in the tone of a man
who did not agree with everybody as a
rule, though he did now; 'I knowed an
auctioneering feller once — a very friendly
feller 'a was too. And so one day as I was
walking down the front street of Caster-
bridge, I passed a shop-door and see him
inside, stuck upon his perch, a-selling off.
I jest nodded to en in a friendly way as I
passed, and went my way, and thought no
more about it. Well, next day, as I was
oilen my boots by fuel-house door, if a letter
didn't come wi' a bill in en, charging me
with a feather-bed, bolster, and pillers, that
I had bid for at Mr. Taylor's sale. The
slim-faced martel had knocked 'em down to
me because I nodded to en in my friendly
way ; and I had to pay for 'em too. Now,
I hold that that was cutting it very close,
Reuben?'



i8 UNDER THE GREENWOOD TREE.

' 'Twas close, there's no denying/ said
the general voice.

' Too close, 'twas,* said Reuben, in the
rear of the rest. * And as to Sam Lawson
—pore heart ! now he's dead and gone too !
— I'll warrant, that if so be I Ve spent one
hour in making hoops for that barrel, I've
spent fifty, first and last. That's one of my
hoops' — touching it with his elbow — * that's
one of mine, and that, and that, and all
these.'

' Ah, Sam was a man !' said Mr. Penny,
looking contemplatively at a small stool.

' Sam was I' said Bowman, shaking his
head t^vice.

' Especially for a drap o' drink,' said the
tranter.

*Good, but not religious -good,' sug-
gested Mr. Penny.

The tranter nodded. Having at last
made the tap and hole quite ready, ' Now
then, Suze, bring a mug,' he said. * Here's
luck to us, my sonnies !'

The tap went in, and the cider imme-
diately squirted out in a horizontal shower



THE TRANTERS.



19



over Reuben's hands, knees, and leggings,
and into the eyes and neck of Charley, who,
having temporarily put off his grief undei
pressure of more interesting proceedings,
was squatting down and blinking near his
father.

' There 'tis again !' said Mrs. Dewy.

' D — 1 take the hole, the cask, and Sam
Lawson too, that good cider should be
wasted like this !' exclaimed the tranter
excitedly. ' Your thumb ! Lend me your
thumb, Michael ! Ram it in here, Michael !
I must get a bigger tap, my sonnies.'

'Idd it cold inthide te hole?' inquired
Charley of Michael, as he continued in a
stooping posture with his thumb in the cork-
hole.

'What wonderful odds and ends that
chiel has in his head to be sure !' Mrs. Dewy
admiringly exclaimed from the distance. * I
lay a wager that he cares more about the
climate inside that barrel than in all the
other parts of the world put together.'

All persons present put on a speaking
countenance of admiration for the cleverness



20 UNDER THE GREENWOOD TREE.

alluded to, in the midst of which Reuben
returned. The operation was then satisfac-
torily performed ; when Michael arose, and
stretched his head to the extremest fraction
of height that his body would allow of, to
restraighten his bent back and shoulders —
thrusting out his arms and twisting his fea-
tures to a mere mass of wrinkles at the
same time, to emphasise the relief acquired.
A quart or two of the beverage was then
brought to table, at which all the new arri-
vals reseated themselves with wide- spread
knees, their eyes meditatively seeking out
with excruciating precision any small speck
or knot in the table upon which the gaze
might precipitate itself.

* What ever is father a-biding out in fuel-
house so long for ?' said the tranter. * Never
such a man as father for two things — cleav-
ing up old dead apple-tree wood and play-
ing the bass-viol. 'A'd pass his life between
the two, that ^a would.* He stepped to the
door and opened it.

* Father!'

* Ay !' rang thinly from round the corner.



THE ASSEMBLED CHOIR. 21

' Here's the barrel tapped, and we all
a- waiting !'

A series of dull thuds, that had been
heard through the chimney-back for some
time past, now ceased ; and after the light
of a lantern had passed the window and
made wheeling rays upon the ceiling inside,
the eldest of the Dewy family appeared.



CHAPTER ni.

THE ASSEMBLED CHOIR.

William Dewy — otherwise grandfather
William — was now about seventy; yet an
ardent vitality still preserved a warm and
roughened bloom upon his face, which re-
minded gardeners of the sunny side of a
ripe ribstone-pippin ; though a narrow strip
of forehead, that was protected from the
weather by lying above the line of his hat-
brim, seemed to belong to some town man,
so gentlemanly was its whiteness. His was
a humorous and gentle nature, not unmixed
with a frequent melancholy ; and he had a



22 UNDER THE GREENWOOD TREE,

firm religious faith. But to his neighbours
he had no character in particular. If they
saw him pass by their windows when they
had been bottling off old mead, or when they
had just been called long-headed men who
might do anything in the world if they
chose, they thought concerning him, *Ah,
there^s that good-hearted man — open as a
child !* If they saw him just after losing a
shilling or half-a-crown, or accidentally let-
ting fall a piece of crockery, they thought,
* There^s that poor weak-minded man Dewy
again! Ah, hell never do much in the
world either!' If he passed when fortune
neither smiled nor frowned on them, they
merely thought him old William Dewy.

*Ah, so's—here you be! — Ah, Michael
and Joseph and John — and you too, Leaf! a
merry Christmas all ! We shall have a rare
log- wood fire directly, Reub, if it d'go by the
toughness of the job I had in cleaving 'em.'
As he spoke he threw down an armful of
logs, which fell in the chimney-corner with
a rumble, and looked at them with some-
thing of the admiring enmity he would



THE ASSEMBLED CHOIR. 23



have bestowed on living people who had
been very obstinate in holding their own.
* Come in, grandfather James.*

Old James (grandfather on the maternal
side) had simply called as a visitor. He
lived in a cottage by himself, and many


1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

Online LibraryThomas HardyUnder the greenwood tree or The mellstock quire : a rural painting of the dutch school → online text (page 1 of 14)