Thomas Hardy.

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

. (page 11 of 14)
Online LibraryThomas HardyUnder the greenwood tree or The mellstock quire : a rural painting of the dutch school → online text (page 11 of 14)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

commotion is watched by its neighbours.

'Are those all of them, father?' said
Fancy, when Geoffrey had pulled away

' Almost all, — though I feel a few more
sticking into my shoulder and side. Ah!
there's another just begun again upon my
backbone. You lively young martels, how
did you get inside there? However, they
can't sting me many times more, poor
things, for tbey must be getting weak. They


may as well stay in me till bedtime now, I

As he himself was the only person af-
fected by this arrangement, it seemed satis-
factory enough; and after a noise of feet
kicking against cabbages in a blundering
progress among them, the voice of Mr. Shinar
was heard from the darkness in that direc-

* Is all quite safe again ?^

No answer being returned to this query,
he apparently assumed that he might ven-
ture forth, and gradually drew near the
lantern again. The hives were now removed
from their position over the holes, one being
handed to Enoch to carry indoors, and one
being taken by Geoffrey himself.

* Bring hither the lantern. Fancy: the
spade can bide.'

Geoffrey and Enoch then went towards
the house, leaving Shinar and Fancy stand-
ing side by side on the garden-plot.

'Allow me,' said Shinar, stooping for the
lantern and seizing it at the same time with


'I can carry it/ said Fancy, religiously
repressing all inclination to trifle. She had
thoroughly considered that subject after the
tearful explanation of the bird-catching ad-
venture to Dick, and had decided that it
would be dishonest in her, as an engaged
young woman, to trifle with men's eyes and
hands any more. Finding that Shinar still
retained his hold of the lantern, she relin-
quished it, and he, having found her retain-
ing it, also let go. The lantern fell, and was
extinguished. Fancy moved on.

* Where is the path ?' said Mr. Shinar.

'Here,' said Fancy. 'Your eyes will
get used to the dark in a minute or two.'

' Till that time will ye lend me your

Fancy gave him the extreme tips of her
fingers, and they stepped from the plot into
the path.

*You don't accept attentions very

' It depends upon who offers them/

' A fellow like me, for instance/

A dead silence,


* Well, what do you say, Missie ?

^It then depends upon how they are

' Not wildly, and yet not indifferently ;
not intentionally, and yet not by chance;
not actively nor idly ; quickly nor slowly/

' How then ?' said Fancy.

' Coolly and practically,' he said. ' How
would that kind of love be taken?'

' Not anxiously, and yet not carelessly ;
neither quickly nor slowly; neither redly
nor palely; not religiously nor yet quite

* Well, how?'

Geoffrey Day's storehouse at the back of
his dwelling was hung with bunches of dried
horehound, mint, and sage; brown-paper
bags of thyme and lavender; and long ropes
of clean onions. On shelves were spread
large red and yellow apples, and choice selec-
tions of early potatoes for seed next year; —
vulgar crowds of commoner kind lying be-
neath in heaps. A few empty beehives wer©


clustered around a nail in one corner, under
which stood two or three barrels of new cider
of the first crop, each bubbling and squirt-
ing forth from the yet open bunghole.

Fancy was now kneeHng beside the two
inverted hives, one of which rested against
her lap, for convenience in operating upon
the contents. She thrust her sleeves above
her elbows, and inserted her small pink hand
edgewise between each white lobe of honey-
comb, performing the act so adroitly and
gently as not to unseal a single cell. Then
cracking the piece off at the crown of the
hive by a slight backward and forward
movement, she lifted each portion as it was
loosened into a large blue platter, placed on
a bench at her side.

' Bother them little martels !' said Geof-
frey, who was holding the light to her, and
giving his back an uneasy twist. ^ I really
think I may so well go indoors and take
*em out, poor things ! for they won't let me
alone. There's two a-stinging wi' all their
might now. I'm sure I wonder their strength
can last so long.'


'AH right, friend; I'll hold the candle
whilst you are gone,* said Mr. Shinar, lei-
surely taking the light, and allowing Geof-
frey to depart, which he did with his usual
long paces.

He could hardly have gone round to
the cottage-door when other footsteps were
heard approaching the outhouse ; the tip of
a finger appeared in the hole through which
the wood latch was lifted, and Dick Dewy
came in, having been all this time walking
up and down the wood, vainly waiting for
Shinar's departure.

Fancy looked up and welcomed him
rather confusedly. Shinar grasped the can-
dlestick more firmly, and, lest doing this in
silence should not imply to Dick with suffi-
cient force that he was quite at home and
cool, he sang invincibly,

' " King Arthur he had three sons.***

* Father here ? said Dick.

* Indoors, I think,* said Fancy, looking
pleasantly at him.

Dick surveyed the scene, and did not


seem inclined to hurry off just at that mo-
ment. Shinar went on singing,

* " The miller was drown'd in his pond,
The weaver was hung in his yarn,
And the d — ran away with the little tailor,
With the broadcloth under his arm.'"

* That's a terrible crippled rhyme, if
that's your rhyme !' said Dick, with a grain
of superciliousness in his tone, and elevating
his nose an inch or thereabout.

'It's no use your complaining to me
about the rhyme!' said Mr. Shinar. 'You
must go to the man that made it.'

Fancy by this time had acquired confi-

' Taste a bit, Mr. De^vy,' she said, hold-
ing up to him a small circular piece of
honeycomb that had been the last in the
row of lobes, and remaining still on her
knees, and flino^ino^ back her head to look in
his face ; ' and then I'll taste a bit too.'

' And I, if you please,' said Mr. Shinar.
Nevertheless the farmer looked superior,
as if he could even now hardly join the
trifling from very importance of station; and


after receiving the honeycomb from Fancy,
he turned it over in his hand till the cells
began to be crushed, and the liquid honey
ran down from his fingers in a thin string.

Suddenly a faint cry from Fancy caused
them to gaze at her.

'What's the matter, dear?' said Dick.

' It is nothing, but O-o ! a bee has stung
the inside of my lip ! He was in one of the
cells I was eating!'

'We must keep down the swelling, or
it may be serious !' said Shinar, stepping up
and kneeling beside her. ' Let me see it.'

'No, no!'

' Just let me see it,' said Dick, kneeling
on the other side ; and after some hesitation
she pressed down her lip mth one finger to
show the place. 'I hope 'twill soon be
better. I don't mind a sting in ordinary
places, but it is so bad upon your lip,' she
added with tears in her eyes, and ^\T:ithing
a little from the pain.

Shinar held the light above his head
and pushed his face close to Fancy's, as if
the lip had been shown exclusively to him-


self, upon which Dick pushed closer, as if
Shinar were not there at all.

* It is swelling,' said Dick to her right

*It isn't swelling,' said Shinar to her
left aspect.

' Is it dangerous on the lip ?' cried Fancy.
' I know it is dangerous on the tongue.'

'0 no, not dangerous!' answered Dick.

* Rather dangerous,' had answered Shi-
nar simultaneously.

'It doesn't hurt me so much now,' said
Fancy, turning again to the hives.

* Hartshorn and oil is a g-ood thino: to
put to it. Miss Day,' said Shinar with great

* Sweet oil and hartshorn I've found to
be a good thing to cure stings. Miss Day,'
said Dick with greater concern.

'We have some mixed indoors; would
you kindly run and get it for me ?' she said.

Now, whether by inadvertence, or whe-
ther by mischievous intention, the individa-
ality of the you was so carelessly denoted
that both Dick and Shinar sprang to their


feet like twin acrobats, and marched abreast
to the door ; both seized the latch and lifted
it, and continued marching on, shoulder to
shoulder, in the same manner to the dwell-
ing-house. Not only so, but entering the
room, they marched as before straight up to
Mrs. Day's chair, letting the door in the old
oak partition slam so forcibly, that the rows
of pewter on the dresser rang like a bell.

'Mrs. Day, Fancy has stung her lip,
and wants you to give me the hartshorn,
please,' said Mr. Shinar, very close to Mrs.
Day's face.

' 0, Mrs. Day, Fancy has asked me to
bring out the hartshorn, please, because she
has stung her lip !' said Dick, a little closer
to Mrs. Day's face.

'Well, men alive! that's no reason
why you should eat me, I suppose!' said
Mrs. Day, drawing back.

She searched in the comer-cupboard,
produced the bottle, and began to dust the
cork, the rim, and every other part very
carefully, Dick's hand and Shinar's hand
waiting side by side.


'Which is head man?' said Mrs. Day.
* Now, don't come mumbudgeting so close
again. Which is head man ?'

Neither spoke; and the bottle was in-
clined towards Shinar. Shinar, as a high-
class man, would not look in the least tri-
umphant, and turned to go off with it as
Geoffrey came downstairs after the search
in his linen for concealed bees.

'0— that you. Master De^vy?

Dick assured the keeper that it was;
and the young man then determined upon a
bold stroke for the attainment of his end,
forgetting that the worst of bold strokes is
the disastrous consequences they involve if
they fail.

' I've come o' purpose to speak to you
very particularly, Mr. Day,' he said, with a
crushing emphasis intended for the ears of
Mr. Shinar, who was vanishing round the
door-post at that moment.

* Well, I've been forced to go upstairs
and unrind myself, and shake some bees
out o' me,' said Geoffrey, walking slowly
towards the open door, and standing oa


the threshold. 'The young rascals got
into my shirt and wouldn't be quiet no-

Dick followed him to the door.

' I've come to speak a word to you,' he
repeated, looking out at the pale mist
creeping up from the gloom of the valley.
' You may perhaps guess what it is about.'

The keeper lowered his hands into the
extreme depths of his pockets, twirled his
eyes, balanced himself on his toes, looked
perpendicularly downward as if his glance
were a plumb-line, then scrupulously hori-
zontal, gradually collecting together the
cracks that lay about his face till they were
all in the neighbourhood of his eyes.

' Maybe I don t know,' he replied.

Dick said nothing ; and the stillness was
disturbed only by some small bird that
was being killed by an owl in the adjoining
copse, whose cry passed into the silence
without mingling with it.

' I've left my hat in the chammer/ said
Geoffi-ey; 'wait while I step up and gej


* I'll be in the garden,' said Dick.

He went round by a side wicket into
the garden, and Geoffrey went upstairs. It
was the custom in Mellstock and its vicinity
to discuss matters of pleasure and ordinary
business inside the house, and to reserve
the garden for very important affairs: a
custom which, as is supposed, originated
in the desirability of getting away at such
times from the other members of the fa-
mily, when there was only one room for
living in, though it was now quite as fre-
quently practised by those who suffered
from no such limitation to the size of their

The keeper's form appeared in the dusky
garden, and Dick walked towards him. The
keeper paused, turned, and leant over the
rail of a piggery that stood on the left of
the path, upon which Dick did the same;
and they both contemplated a Avhitish sha-
dowy form that was moving about and
grunting among the straw of the interior.

* IVe come to ask for Fancy,' said Dick.

* I'd as lief you hadn't.'


'Why should that be, Mr. Day?'
'Because it makes me say that youVe
come to ask for what ye be'n't likely to
have. Have ye come for anything else?*

* Then I'll just tell ye youVe come on a
very foolish errand. D'ye know what her
mother was?*


* A governess in a county family, who
was foolish enough to marry the keeper of
the same establishment. D'ye think Fancy
picked up her good manners, the smooth
turn of her tongue, her musical skill, and
her knowledge of books, in a homely hole
like this?'


' D'ye know where?'


' Well, when I went a- wandering after
her mother's death, she lived with her aunt,
who kept a boarding-school, till her aunt
married Lawyer Green — a man as sharp as
a needle — and the school was broken up.
Did ye know that then she went to the


training-school, and that her name stood
first among the Queen's scholars of her

^ I've heard so.'

^ And that when she sat for her certifi-
cate as Government teacher, she had the
highest of the first class ?'


' Well, and do ye know what I live in
such a miserly way for when I've got
enough to do without it, and why I make
her work as a schoolmistress instead of liv-
ing here?*


* That if any gentleman, who sees her to
be his equal in polish, should want to marry
her, and she want to marry him, he sha'n't
be superior to her in pocket. Now do ye
think after this that you be good enough
for her?'

' No;

' Then good-night t'ye. Master Dewy.'
' Good-night, Mr. Day.'
Modest Dick's reply had faltered upon
his tongue, and he turned away wondering


at his presumption in asking for a woman
whom he had seen from the beginning to
be so superior to him.



The next scene is a tempestuous after-
noon in the following month, and Fancy
Day is discovered walking from her father's
home towards Mellstock.

A single vast gray cloud covered all
the country, from which the small rain
and mist had just begun to blow down in
wavy sheets, alternately thick and thin.
The trees of the old brown plantation
writhed like miserable men as the air
wended its way swiftly among them; the
lowest portions of their trunks, that had
hardly ever been known to move, were
visibly rocked by the fiercer gusts, dis-
tressing the mind by its painful unwonted-
ness, as when a strong man is seen to shed


tears. Low-hanging boughs went up and
down ; high and erect boughs went to
and fro ; the blasts being so irregular, and
divided into so many cross-currents, that
neighbouring branches of the same tree
swept the skies in independent motions,
crossed each other, passed, or became en-
tangled. Across the open spaces flew flocks
of green and yellowish leaves, which, after
travelling a long distance from their pa-
rent trees, reached the ground, and lay
there with their under-sides upward.

As the rain and wind increased, and
Fancy's bonnet -ribbons leapt more and
more snappishly against her chin, she
paused to consider her latitude, and the
distance to a place of shelter. The nearest
house was Elizabeth Endorfield's, whose
cottage and garden stood at the junction
of the lane with the high road. Fancy
hastened onward, and in five minutes en-
tered a gate, which shed upon her toes a
flood of water-drops as she opened it.

^ Come in, chiel!' a voice exclaimed, be-
fore Fancy had knocked: a promptness


that would have surprised her, had she
not known that Mrs. Endorfield was an
exceedingly and exceptionally sharp wo-
man in the use of her eyes and ears.

Fancy went in and sat down. Eliza-
beth was paring potatoes for her husband's

Scrape, scrape, scrape ; then a toss, and
splash went a potato into a bucket of

Now, as Fancy listlessly noted these
proceedings of the dame, she began to re-
consider an old subject that lay uppermost
in her heart. Since the interview between
her father and Dick, the days had been
melancholy days for her. Geoffrey's firm
opposition to the notion of Dick as a son-
in-law was more than she had expected.
She had frequently seen her lover since
that time, it is true, and had loved him more
for the opposition than she would have
otherwise dreamt of doing — which was a
happiness of a certain kind. Yet, though
love is thus an end in itself, it must be
believed to be the means to another end if


it is to assume the rosy hues of an unal-
loyed pleasure. And such a belief Fancy and
Dick were emphatically denied just row.

Elizabeth Endorfield had a repute among
women which was in its nature something
between distinction and notoriety. It was
founded on the following items of character.
She was shrewd and penetrating ; her house
stood in a lonely place ; she never went to
church ; she always retained her bonnet in-
doors; and she had a pointed chin. Thus
far her attributes were distinctly Satanic;
and those who looked no further called her,
in plain terms, a witch. But she was not
gaunt, nor ugly in the upper part of her
face, nor particularly strange in manner;
so that, when her more intimate acquaint-
ances spoke of her, the term was softened,
and she became simply a Deep Body, who
was as long-headed as she was high. It
may be stated that Elizabeth belonged to a
class of people who were gradually losing
their mysterious characteristics under the
administration of the young vicar ; though,
during the long reign of Mr. Grinham, the


parish of Mellstock had proved extremely
favourable to the growth of witches.

While Fancy was revolving all this in
her mind, and putting it to herself whe-
ther it was worth while to tell her troubles
to Elizabeth, and ask her advice in getting
out of them, the witch spoke.

' You are down — proper down/ she said
suddenly, dropping another potato into the

Fancy took no notice.

' About your young man.'

Fancy reddened. Elizabeth seemed to be
watching her thoughts. Really, one would
almost think she must have the powers
people ascribed to her.

^Father not in the humour for't, hey?'
Another potato was finished and flung in.
' Ah, I know about it. Little birds tell me
things that people don't dream of my know-

Fancy was desperate about Dick, and
here was a chance — 0, such a wicked
chance! — of getting help; but what was
goodness beside love !


' I wish you'd tell me how to put him
in the humour for it?^ she said.

* That I could soon do,' said the witch

'Really? 0, do; anyhow — I don't care
— so that it is done! How could I do it,
Mrs. Endorfield?'

' Nothing so mighty wonderful in it.'

'WvU, buthow?

*By witchery, of course!' said Eliza-

'No!' said Fancy.

* Tis, I assure ye. Didn t you ever hear
I was a witch?'

* Well,' said Fancy hesitatingly, ' I have
heard you called so.'

'And you believed it?'

' I can't say that I did exactly believe
it, for 'tis very horrible and wicked; but,
0, how I do wish it was possible for you
to be one !'

' So I am. And I'll tell ye how to be-
witch your father, to let you marry Dick

* Will it hurt him, pogr thing f


* Hurt who?

* Father.'

* No ; the charm is worked by common
sense, and the spell can only be broke by
your acting stupidly/

Fancy looked rather perplexed, and Eliza-
beth went on :

* This fear of Lizz — whatever 'tis —
By great and small ;
She makes pretence to common sense,
And that's alL

You must do it like this.' The witch
laid down her knife and potato, and then
poured into Fancy's ear a long and de-
tailed Hst of directions, glancing up from
the corner of her eye into Fancy's face
with an expression of sinister humour.
Fancy's face brightened, clouded, rose and
sank, as the narrative proceeded. * There,'
said Elizabeth at length, stoo})ing for the
knife and another potato, ' do that, and
you'll have him by-long and by-late, my

* And do it I v/ili !' said Fancy.

She then turned her atteation to the


external world once more. The rain con-
tinued as usual, but the wind had abated
considerably during the discourse. Judg-
ing that it was now possible to keep an
umbrella erect, she pulled her hood again
over her bonnet, bade the witch goad-bye,
and went her way.



Mrs. Endorfield's advice was duly fol-

* I be proper sorry that your daughter
isn't so well as she might be,' said a M ell-
stock man to Geoffrey one morning.

' But is there anything in it ?' said Geof-
frey uneasily. He shifted his hat slightly
to the right. ' I can't understand the re-
port. She didn't complain to me at all,
when I seed her.*

' No appetite at all, they say.'

Geoffrey called at the school that after-


noon. Fancy welcomed him as usual, and
asked him to stay and take tea with her.

^ I be'n't much for tea, this time o' day/
he said, but stayed.

Durinix the meal he watched her nar-
rowly. And to his great consternation
discovered the following unprecedented
change in the healthy girl — that she cut
herself only a diaphanous slice of bread-
and-butter, and laying it on her plate,
passed the meal in breaking it into pieces,
but eating no more than about one-tenth
of the slice. Geoffrey hoped she would say
something about Dick, and finish up by
weeping, as she had done after the decision
against him a few days subsequent to the
interview in the garden. But nothing was
said, and in due time Geoffrey departed
again for Yalbury Wood.

* Tis to be hoped poor Miss Fancy will
be able to keep on her school,' said Geof-
frey's man Enoch to Geoffrey the following
week, as they were shovelling up ant-hills in
the wood.

Geoffrey stuck in the shovel, swept seven


Or eight ants from his sleeve, and killed
another that was prowling round his ear,
then looked perpendicularly into the earth,
waiting for Enoch to say more. 'Well,
why shouldn't she ?' said the keeper at last.

'The baker told me yesterday,^ con-
tinued Enoch, shaking out another emmet
that had run merrily up his thigh, ' that the
bread he've left at that there school-house
this last month would starve any mouse in
the three creations; that 'twould so. And
afterwards I had a pint o' small at the Old
Souls, and there I heard more.'

'What might that ha' been?'

' That she used to have half a pound o'
the best rolled butter a week, regular as
clockwork, from Dairyman Quenton's; but
now the same quantity d'last her three
weeks, and then 'tis thoughted she throws it
away sour.'

' Finish doing the emmets, and carry
the bag home-along.' The keeper resumed
his gun, tucked it under his arm, and went
on without whistling to the dogs, who
however followed, with a bearing meant


to imply that they did not expect any
such attentions when their master was re-

On Saturday morning a note came from
Fancy. He was not to trouble about send-
ing her the couple of early young rabbits,
as was intended, because she feared she
should not want them. Later in the day,
Geoffrey went to Casterbridge, and called
upon the butcher who served Fancy with
fresh meat, which was put down to her
father's account.

'IVe called to pay up our little bill,
naibour Sabley, and you can gie me the
chiel's account at the same time/

Mr. Sabley turned round three quarters
of a circle in the midst of a heap of joints,
altered the expression of his face from meat
to money, went into a little office consisting
only of a door and a window, looked very
vigorously into a book which possessed
length but no breadth; and then, seizing a
piece of paper and scribbling thereupon,
handed the bill.

Probably it was the first time in the


history of commercial transactions that the
quality of shortness in a butcher's bill was
a cause of tribulation to the debtor. 'Why,
this isn't all she've had in a whole month !'
said Geoffrey.

* Every mossel,' said the butcher —
* (now, Dan, take that leg and shoulder to
Mrs. White's, and this eleven pound here
to Mr. Martins) — you've been trating her

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 11 13 14

Online LibraryThomas HardyUnder the greenwood tree or The mellstock quire : a rural painting of the dutch school → online text (page 11 of 14)