Thomas Hardy.

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

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to smaller joints lately, to my thinking, Mr.

' Only two or three little scram rabbits
this last week, as I be alive — I wish I had.*

'Well, my wife said to me — (Dan! not
too much, not too much at a time; better
go twice) — my wife said to me as she posted
up the books : " Sabley," she ses, "Miss Day
must have been affronted this summer dur-
ing that hot muggy weather that spoilt so
much for us; for depend upon't," she ses,
" she've been trying Joe Grimmett unknown
to us : see her account else." 'Tis little, of
course, at the best of times, being only for
one, but now 'tis next kin to nothing.'

' I'll inquire,' said Geoffrey deapondingly


He returned by way of Mellstock, and
called upon Fancy, in fulfilment of a pro-
mise. It being Saturday, the cbildren were
enjoying a holiday, and on entering the
residence Fancy was nowhere to be seen.
Nan, the charwoman, was sweeping the

' Where's my da'ter ?' said the keeper.

'Well, you see she was tired with the
week's work, and this morning she said,
"Nan, I sha'n't get up till the evening."
You see, Mr. Day, if people don't eat, they
can't work; and as she've gie'd up eating,
she must gie up working.*

'Have ye carried up any dinner to

' No ; she don't want any. There, we all
know that such things don't come without
good reason — not that I wish to say any-
thing about a broken heart, or anything of
the kind.*

Geoflfrey's own heart felt inconveniently
large just then. He went to the staircase
and ascended to his daughter's door.



' Come in, father/

To see a person in bed from any cause
whatever, on a fine afternoon, is depressing
enough ; and here was his only child Fancy,
not only in bed, but looking very pale.
Geoffrey was visibly disturbed.

' Fancy, I didn't expect to see thee here,
chiel,' he said. * What's the matter ?'

' I'm not well, father.'

'How's that?'

' Because I think of things.'

' What things can you have to think o'
80 martel much?'

' You know, father.'

* You think I've been cruel to thee in
saying that that penniless Dick o' thine
sha'n't marry thee, I suppose?'

No answer.

' Well, you know, Fancy, I do it for the
best, and he isn't good enough for thee.
You know that well enough.' Here he
again looked at her as she lay. 'Well,
Fancy, I can't let my only chiel die ; and if
you can't live without en, you must ha' en,
I suppose/


'0, I don't want him like that; all
against your will, and everything so dis-
obedient!' sighed the invalid.

'No, no, 'tisn't against my will. My
♦ash is, now I d'see how 'tis hurten thee to
live without en, that he shall marry thee as
soon as we've considered a little. That's
my wish flat and plain, Fancy. There,
never cry, my little maid ! You ought to ha'
cried afore; no need o' crying now 'tis all
over. Well, howsoever, try to stap over
and see me and mother-law to-morrow, and
ha' a bit of dinner wi' us.*

'And— Dick too?

' Ay, Dick too, 'far's I know.*

*And when do you think you'll have
considered, father, and he may marry me ?'
she coaxed.

* Well, there, say next Midsummer ; that's
not a day too long to wait.'

On leaving the school, Geoffrey went to
the tranter's. Old William opened the

*Is your grandson Dick in 'ithin, Wil«
liaia ?*


* No, not just now, Geoffrey. Though
he've been at home a good deal lately.'

*0, how's that?

'What wi* one thing, and what wi'
'tother, he's all in a mope, as m't be said.
Don't seem the feller 'a used to. Ay, 'a
will sit studding and thinking as if 'a were
going to turn chapel-member, and then 'a
don't do nothing but traypsing and wamb-
ling about. Used to be such a chatty feller,
too, Dick did; and now 'a don't spak at
all. But won't ye stap inside? Reuben
will be home soon, 'a b'lieve.'

' No, thank you, I can't stay now. Will
ye just ask Dick if he'll do me the kindness
to stap over to Yalbury to-morrow with
my da'ter Fancy, if she's well enough? I
don't like her to come by herself, now she's
not so terrible topping in health.'

'So I've heard. Ay, sure, 111 tell'n
without fail*




The visit to Geoffrey passed off as de-
lightfully as a visit might have been ex-
pected to pass off when it was the first day of
smooth experience in a hitherto obstructed
love-course. And then came a series of
several happy days, of the same undisturbed
serenity. Dick could court her when he
chose; stay away when he chose, — which
was never ; walk with her by winding
streams and waterfalls and autumn scenery
till dews and twilight sent them home.
And thus they drew near the day of the
Harvest Thanksgiving, which was also the
time chosen for opening the organ in Mell-
stock Church.

It chanced that Dick on that very day
was called away from Mellstock. A young
acquaintance had died of consumption at
Stoneley, a neighbouring village, on the
previous Monday, and Dick, in fulfilment of
a long-standing promise, was to assist in


carryino; him to the grave. When, on Tues-
day, Dick went towards the school to ac-
quaint Fancy of the fact, it is difficult to say
whether his own disappointment, at being
denied the sight of her triumphant debut as
organist, was greater than his vexation that
his pet should on this great occasion be
deprived of the pleasure of his presence.
However, the intelligence was communi-
cated. She bore it as she best could, not
without many expressions of regret, and
convictions that her performance would be
nothing to her now.

Just before eleven o*clock on Sunday he
set out upon his sad errand. The funeral
was to be immediately after the morning
service, and as there were four good miles to
walk, it became necessary to start compara-
tively early. Half an hour later would cer-
tainly have answered his purpose quite as
well, yet nothing would content his ardent
mind but that he must go a mile out of his
way, in the direction of the school, in the
hope of getting a glimpse of his Love as she
started for church.


Striking into the path between the
church and the school, he proceeded to-
wards the latter spot, and arrived opposite
her door as his goddess emerged.

If ever a woman looked a divinity, Fancy
Day appsared one that morning as she
floated down those school steps, in the form
of a nebulous collection of colours inclining
to blue. With an audacity unparalleled in
the whole history of schoolmistresses —
partly owing, no doubt, to papa's respectable
accumulation of cash, which rendered her
profession not altogether one of necessity —
she had actually donned a hat and feather,
and lowered her hitherto plainly looped-up
hair, which now fell about her shoulders in
a profusion of curls. Poor Dick was aston-
ished: he had never seen her look so dis-
tractingly beautiful before, save on Christ-
mas-eve, when her hair was in the same
luxuriant condition of freedom. But his
first burst of delighted surprise was fol-
lowed by less comfortable feelings, as soon
as his brain recovered its power to think.

Fancy had blushed; — was it with con-


fusion? She had also hi voluntarily pressed
back her curls. She had not expected

' Fancy, you didn't know me for a mo-
ment in my funeral clothes, did you?'

' Good-morning, Dick — no, really I didn't
recognise you for an instant/

He looked again at the gay tresses and
hat. ' You've never dressed so charmingly
before, dearest.'

'I like to hear you praise me in that
way, Dick,* she said, smiling archly. ' It is
meat and drink to a woman. Do I look
nice really?*

'Fancy, — fie! you know it. Did you
remember, — I mean didn't you remember
about my going away to-day ?'

* Well, yes, I did, Dick ; but, you know,
I wanted to look well ; — forgive me.'

'Yes, darling; yes, of course, — there's
nothing to forgive. No, I was only think-
ing that when we talked on Tuesday and
Wednesday and Thursday and Friday about
my absence to-day, and I regretted it so,
you said, Fancy, so did you regret it, and


almost cried, and said it would be no plea-
sure to you to be the attraction of the
church to-day, since I could not be there.'

* My dear one, neither will it be so much

pleasure to me But I do take a little

delight in my life, I suppose,' she pouted.

* Apart from mine?'

She looked at him with perplexed eyes.
' I know you are vexed -with me, Dick, and
it is because the first Sunday I have curls
and a hat and feather since I have been
here happens to be the very day you are
away and won't be with me. Yes, say it is,
for that is it 1 And you think that all this
week I ought to have remembered you
wouldn't be here, and not have cared to be
better dressed than usual. Yes, you do,
Dick, and it is rather unkind V

'No, no,' said Dick earnestly and simply,
* I didn't think so badly of you as that. I
only thought that, if you had been going
away, I shouldn't have adopted new attrac-
tions for the eyes of other people. But then
of course you and I are different naturally.

* Well, perhaps we are/


' Whatever will the vicar say, Fancy ?'

* I don't fear what he says in the least I*
she answered proudly. * But he won't say
anything of the sort you think. No, no.'

'He can hardly have conscience to, in-

'Now come, you say, Dick, that you
quite forgive me, for I must go,' she said
with sudden gaiety, and skipped backwards
into the porch. ' Come here, sir ; — say you
forgive me, and then you shall kiss me; —
you never have yet when I have worn curls,
you know. Yes, in the very middle of my
mouth, where you want to so much, — yes,
you may.'

Dick followed her into the inner corner,
where he was not slow in availing himself
of the privilege offered.

' Now that's a treat for you, isn't it?' she
continued. ' Good-bye, or I shall be late.
Come and see me to-morrow : you'll be tired

Thus they parted, and Fancy proceeded
to the church. The organ stood on one side
of the chancel, close to and under the im-


mediate eye of the vicar when he was in
the pulpit, and also in full view of the whole
congregation. Here she sat down, for the
first time in such a conspicuous position,
her seat having previously been in a remote
spot in the aisle. ^ Good heavens— disgrace-
ful I Curls and a hat and feather !' said the
daughters of the small gentry, who had
either only curly hair without a hat and
feather, or a hat and feather without curl-
ing hair. 'A bonnet for church always I'
said sober matrons.

That Mr. Maybold was conscious of her
presence close beside him during his ser-
mon; that he was not at all angry at her
development of costume; that he admired
her, she perceived. But she did not see
that he loved her during that sermon-time
as he had never loved a woman before ; that
her proximity was a strange delight to him ;
and that he gloried in her musical success
that morning in a spirit quite beyond a
mere cleric's glory at the inauguration of a
new order of things.

The old choir, with humbled hearts, no


longer took their seats in the gallery as
heretofore (which was now given up to the
school-children who were not singers, and
a pupil-teacher), but were scattered about
with their wives in different parts of the
church. Having nothing to do with con-
ducting the service for almost the first time
in their lives, they all felt awkward, out of
place, abashed, and inconvenienced by their
hands. The tranter had proposed that they
should stay away to-day and go nutting,
but grandfather William would not hear of
such a thing for a moment. ^No,' he replied
reproachfully, and quoted a verse : " Though
this has come upon us, let not our hearts be
turned back, or our steps go out of the way." '
So they stood and watched the curls of hair
trailing down the back of the successful
rival, and the waving of her feather, as she
swayed her head. After a few timid notes
and uncertain touches her playing became
markedly correct, and towards the end full
and free. But, whether from prejudice or
unbiassed judgment, the venerable body
of musicians could not help thinking that


the simpler notes they had been wont to
bring forth were more in keeping with the
simplicity of :heir old church than the
crowded chords and interludes it was her
pleasure to produce.



The day was done, and Fancy was again
in the school-house. About five o'clock it
began to rain, and in rather a dull frame of
mind she wandered into the schoolroom, for
want of something better to do. She was
thinking — of her lover Dick Dewy? not
precisely. Of how weary she was of living
alone : how unbearable it would be to return
to Yalbury under the rule of her strange-
tempered step-mother ; that it was far better
to be married to anybody than do that;
that eight or nine long months had yet to
be lived through ere the wedding could
take place.


At the end of the room was a high win-
dow, upon the sill of which she could sit
by first mounting a desk and using it as a
footstool. As the evening advanced, here
she perched herself, as was her custom on
such wet and gloomy occasions, put on a
light shawl and bonnet, opened the window,
and looked out at the rain.

The window overlooked a field and foot-
path across it, and it was the position from
which she used to survey the crown of
Dick's hat in the early days of their ac-
quaintance and meetings. Not a living soul
was now visible anywhere ; the rain kept all
people indoors who were not forced abroad
by necessity, and necessity was less impor-
tunate on Sundays than during the week.

Sitting here and thinking again — of her
lover, or of the sensation she had created
at church that day? — well, it is unknown —
thinkino^ and thinkinor she saw a dark mas-
culine figure arising into distinctness at the
farther end of the path — a man without an
umbrella. Nearer and nearer he came, and
she perceived that he was in deep mourn-


ing, and then that it was Dick. Yes, in the
fondness and foolishness of his young heart,
after walking four miles, in a drizzling rain
without overcoat oi umbrella, and in face
of a remark from his love that he was not
to come because he would be tired, he had
made it his business to wander this mile out
of his way again, from sheer love of spend-
ing ten minutes in her beloved presence.

' Dick, how wet you are !' she said,
as he drew up under the window. ' Why,
your coat shines as if it had been var-
nished, and your hat — my goodness, there's
a streaming hat !'

* 0, I don't mind, darling !' said Dick
cheerfully. ' Wet never hurts me, though
I am rather sorry for my best clothes.
However, it couldn't be helped; they lent
all the umbrellas to the women.'

'And look, there's a nasty patch of
something just on your shoulder.'

'Ah, that^s japanning; it rubbed off the
clamps of poor Jack^s coffin when we low-
ered him from our shoulders upon the
bier ! I don't care about that, for 'twas


the last deed 1 could do for him ; and 'tis
hard if you can't afford a coat to an old

Fancy put her hand to her mouth for
half a minute. Underneath the palm of that
little hand there existed for that half-mi-
nute a little yawn.

'Dick, I don't like you to stand there
in the wet. Go home and change your
things. Don't stay another minute.'

' One kiss after coming so far,' he pleaded.

* If I can reach, then.'

He looked rather disappointed at not
being invited round to the door. She left
her seated position and bent herself down-
wards, but not even by standing on the
plinth was it possible for Dick to get his
mouth into contact with hers as she held
it. By great exertion she might have
reached a little lower ; but then she would
have exposed her head to the rain.

' Never mind, Dick ; kiss my hand,' she
said, flinguag it down to him. ' Now, good-

^ Good-bye.'


He walked slowly away, turning and
turning again to look at her till he was out
of sight. During the retreat she said to her-
self, almost involuntarily, and still conscious
of that morning's triumph,

' I like Dick, and I love him ; but how
poor and mean a man looks in the rain,
with no umbrella, and wet through !'

As he vanished, she made as if to de-
scend from her seat; but glancing in the
other direction she saw another form coming
along the same path. It was also that of a
man. He, too, was in black from top to toe ;
but he carried an umbrella.

He drew nearer, and the direction of
the rain caused him so to slant his um-
brella, that from her height above the
ground his hefid was invisible, as she was
also to him. He passed in due time directly
beneath her, and in looking down upon the
exterior of his uaibrella her feminine eyes
instinctively perceived it to be of superior
silk, and of elegant make. He reached the
angle of the building, and Fancy suddenly
lost sight of hipa. Instead of pursuing th^


straight path, as Dick had done, he had
turned sharply round to her own door.

She jumped to the floor, hastily flung
off her shawl and bonnet, smoothed and
patted her hair till the curls hung in pass-
able condition, and listened. No knock.
Nearly a minute passed, and still there was
no knock. Then there arose a soft series
of raps, no louder than the tapping of a dis-
tant woodpecker, and barely distinct enough
to reach her ears. She composed herself
and flung open the door.

In the porch stood Mr. Maybold.

There was a warm flush upon his face,
and a bright flash in his eyes, which made
him look handsomer than she had ever seen
him before.

* Good-evening, Miss Day.'

^ Good-evening, Mr. Maybold,* she said,
in a strange state of mind. She had noticed,
beyond the ardent hue of his face, that his
voice had a singular tremor in it, and that
his hand shook like an aspen leaf when he
laid his umbrella in the comer of the porch.
Without another word being spoken by either


he came into the schoolroom, shut the door,
and moved close to her. Once inside, the
expression of his face was no more dis-
cernible, by reason of the increasing dusk
of evening.

*I want to speak to you,' he then said;
* seriously — on a perhaps unexpected subject,
but one which is all the world to me — I don't
know what it may be to you, Miss Day.'

No reply.

* Fancy, I have come to ask you if you
will be my wife ?^

As a person who has been idly amusing
himself mth rolling a snowball might start
at finding he had set in motion an ava-
lanche, so did Fancy start at these words
from the vicar. And in the dead silence
which followed them, the breathings of the
man and of the woman could be distinctly
and separately heard; and there was this
difference between them — his respirations
gradually grew quieter and less rapid after
the enunciation ; hers, from having been
low and regular, increased in quickness and
force, till she almost panted.



'I cannot, I cannot, Mr. Maybold — I
cannot. Don't ask me !' she said.

' Don't answer in a hurry !' he entreated.
'And do listen to me. This is no sudden
feehng on my part. I have loved you for
more than six months ! Perhaps my late
interest in teaching the children here has
not been so single-minded as it seemed. You
will understand my motive — like me better,
perhaps — for honestly telling you that I
have struggled against my emotion con-
tinually, because I have thought that it
was not well for me to love you ! But I
resolve to struggle no longer; I have ex-
amined the feeling ; and the love I bear you
is as genuine as that I could bear any wo-
man! I see your great beauty; I respect
your natural talents, and the refinement
they have brought into your nature — they
are quite enough, and more than enough
for me ! They are equal to anything ever
required of the mistress of a quiet parson-
age-house — the place in which I shall pass
my days, wherever it may be situated.
Fancy, I have watched you, criticised you


even severely, brought my feelings to the
light of judgment, and still have found
them rational, and such as any man might
have expected to be inspu'ed with by a wo-
man like you ! So there is nothing hurried,
secret, or untoward in my desire to make
you my wife! Fancy, will you marry

No answer was returned.

^ Don't refuse ; don't,^ he implored. 'It
would be foolish of you — I mean cruel I Of
course we would not live here. Fancy. I
have had for a long time the offer of an
exchange of livings with a friend in York-
shire, but I have hitherto refused on ac-
count of my mother. There we would go.
Your musical powers shall be still further
developed; you shall have whatever piano
you like; you shall have anything, Fancy!
anything to make you happy — pony-car-
riage, flowers, birds, pleasant society; yes,
you have enough in you for any society,
after a few months of travel with me I Will
you. Fancy, marry me?*

Another pause ensued, varied only by


the surging of the rain against the window-
panes, and then Fancy spoke, in a faint and
broken voice.

' Yes, I will/ she said.

* God bless you, my own !* He advanced
quickly, and put his arm out to embrace
her. She drew back hastily. ' No, no, not
now!* she said in an agitated whisper.
'There are things; — but the temptation is,
0, too strong, and I can't resist it; I cant
tell you now, but I must tell you ! Don't,
please, don't come near me now ! I want to
think. I can scarcely get myself used to
the idea of what I have promised yet.' The
next minute she turned to a desk, buried
her face in her hands, and burst into a hys-
terical fit of weeping. ' 0, leave me !' she
sobbed, 'leave me! 0, leave me!'

' Don't be distressed ; don't, dearest !' It
was with visible difficulty that he restrained
himself from approaching her. ' You shall
tell me at your leisure what it is that
grieves you so ; I am happy — beyond all
measure happy I — at having your simple


' And do leave me now I'

*But I must not, injustice to you, leave
for a minute, until you are yourself again.'

'There then,' she said, controlling her
emotion, and standing up ; 'I am not dis-
turbed now.'

He reluctantly moved towards the door.
'Good-bye!' he murmured tenderly. 'I'll
come to-morrow about this time.*



The next morning the vicar rose early.
The first thing he did was to write a long
and careful letter to his friend in York-
shire. Then, partaking of a little break-
fast, he crossed the dale and heath in the
direction of Casterbridge, bearing his letter
in his pocket, that he might post it at the
town office, and obviate the loss of one
day in its transmission that would have
resulted had he left it for the foot-post
throuo^h the villao^e.


It was a foggy morning, and the trees
shed in noisy water-drops the moisture
they had collected from the thick air, an
acorn occasionally falling from its cup to
the ground, in company with the drippings.
In the heath, sheets of spiders' -web, almost
opaque with wet, hung in folds over the
furze -bushes, and the ferns appeared in
every variety of brown, green, and yellow

A low and merry whistling was heard on
the other side of the hedge, then the light
footsteps of a man going in the same direc-
tion as himself. On reaching the gate which
divided the two enclosures, the vicar be-
held Dick Dewy's open and cheerful face.
Dick lifted his hat, and came through
the gate into the path the vicar was pur-

' Good-morning, Dewy. How well you
are looking I' said Mr. Maybold.

' Yes, sir, I am well — quite well I I am
going to Casterbridge now, to get Smart's
collar ; we left it there Saturday to be


^I am going to Casterbridge, so we'll
walk together/ the vicar said. Dick gave
a hop with one foot to put himself in step
with Mr. Maybold, who proceeded : 'I fancy
I didn't see you at church yesterday, Dewy.
Or were you behind the pier ?'

'No: I went to Stoneley. Poor John

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Online LibraryThomas HardyUnder the greenwood tree or The mellstock quire : a rural painting of the dutch school → online text (page 12 of 14)