Thomas Hardy.

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

. (page 13 of 14)
Online LibraryThomas HardyUnder the greenwood tree or The mellstock quire : a rural painting of the dutch school → online text (page 13 of 14)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Dunford chose me to be one of his bearers
a long time before he died, and yesterday
was the funeral. Of course I couldn't re-
fuse, though I should have liked particu-
larly to have been at home on this occa-

' Yes, you should have been. The mu-
sical portion of the service was success-
ful — very successful indeed; and what is
more to the purpose, no ill-feeling whatever
was evinced by any of the members of the
old choir. They joined in the singing with
the greatest good-will.*

''Twas natural enough that I should
want to be there, I suppose,' said Dick,
smiling a private smile ; ' considering who
the organist was.'

At this the vicar reddened a little, and


said, ' Yes, yes/ though not pt all com-
prehending Dick's true meaning, who, as
he received no further reply, continued
hesitatingly, and with another smile denot-
ing his pride as a lover,

* I suppose you know what I mean,
sir? You've heard about me and — Miss

The red in Maybold's countenance went
away: he turned and looked Dick in the

* No,* he said constrainedly, * I've heard
nothing whatever about you and Miss Day.*

'Why, she's my sweetheart, and we
are going to be married next Midsummer.
We are keeping it rather close just at pre-
sent, because it is a good many months to
wait; but it is her father's wish that we
don't marry before, and of course we must
submit. But the time will soon shp along.*

'Yes, the time will soon slip along.
Time glides away every day — yes.'

Maybold said these words, but he had
no idea of what they were. He was con-
scious of a cold and sickly thrill through-


out him; and all he reasoned was this, that
the young creature whose graces had in-
toxicated him into making the most im-
prudent resolution of his life, was less an
angel than a woman.

' You see, sir,' continued the ingenuous
Dick, "twill be better in one sense. I
shall by that time be the regular manager
of a branch of my father's business, which
has very much increased lately, and we
expect next year to keep an extra couple
of horses. We've already our eye on one
— brown as a berry, neck like a rainbow,
fifteen hands, and not a gray hair in her —
offered us at twenty-five want a crown.
And to keep pace with the times, I have
had some cards printed, and I beg leave
to hand you one, sir.'

' Certainly,' said the vicar, mechanically
taking the card that Dick offered him.

' I turn in here by the river,' said Dick.
' I suppose you go straight up the town T


' Good-morning, sir/

^ Good-morning, Dewy/


Maybold stood still upon the bridge,
holding the card as it had been put into
his hand, and Dick's footsteps died away.
The vicar's first voluntary action was to
read the card : —



N.B. Furniture, Coals, Potatoes, Live and Dead Stock,
removed to any distance on the shortest notice.

Mr. Maybold leant over the parapet of
the bridge and looked into the river. He
saw — without heeding — how the water
came rapidly from beneath the arches,
glided down a little steep, then spread it-
self over a pool in which dace, trout, and
minnows sported at ease among the long
green locks of weed, that lay heaving and
sinking with their roots towards the cur-
rent. At the end of ten minutes spent
leaning thus, he stood erect, drew the let-
ter from his pocket, tore it deliberately
into such minute fragments that scarcely
two syllables remained in juxtaposition,


and sent the whole handful of shreds flut-
tering into the water. Here he watched
them eddy, dart, and turn, as they were
carried downwards towards the ocean and
gradually disappeared from his view. Fin-
ally he moved off, and pursued his way
at a rapid pace towards Mellstock Vicar-

Nerving himself by a long and intense
effort, he sat down in his study and wrote
as follows :

* Dear Miss Day, — The meaning of your
words, ''the temptation is too strong," of
your sadness and your tears, has been
brought home to me by an accident. 1
know to-day what I did not know yester-
day — that you are not a free woman.

* Why did you not tell me — why didn't
you ? Did you suppose I knew ? No.
Had I known, my conduct in coming to
you as I did would have been reprehen-

' But I don't chide you ! perhaps no
blame attaches to you — I can't tell.

A CR/S/S. 305

Fancy, though my opinion of you is as-
sailed and disturbed in a way which cannot
be expressed, I love you still, and my
word to you holds good yet. But will
you, in justice to an honest man who relies
upon your word to him, consider whether,
under the circumstances, you can honour-
ably forsake him?

* Yours ever sincerely,

* Arthur Maybold.'

He rang the bell. ' Tell Charles to take
these copybooks and this note to the school
at once.'

The maid took the parcel and the letter,
and in a few minutes a boy was seen to
leave the vicarage gate, with the one under
his arm, and the other in his hand. The
vicar sat with his hand to his brow, watch-
ing the lad as he climbed the hill and
entered the little field that intervened be-
tween that spot and the school.

Here he was met by another boy, and
after a salutation and pugilistic frisk had
passed between the two, the second boy


came on his way to the vicarage, and the
other vanished out of sight.

The boy came to the door, and a note
for Mr. Maybold was brought in.

He knew the writing. Opening the
envelope with an unsteady hand, he read
the subjoined words:

' Dear Mr. Maybold, — I have been think-
ing seriously and sadly through the whole
of the night of the question you put to me
last evening; and of my answer. That
answer, as an honest woman, I had no right
to give.

'It is my nature — perhaps all women^s
— to love refinement of mind and manners ;
but even more than this, to be ever fascin-
ated with the idea of surroundings more
elegant and luxurious than those which
have been customary. And you praised me,
and praise is life to me. It was alone my
sensations at these things which prompted
my reply. Ambition and vanity they would
be called; perhaps they are so.

* After this explanation, I hope you will


generously allow me to withdraw the ans-
wer I too hastily gave.

*And one more request. To keep the
meeting of last night, and all that passed
between us there, for ever a secret. Were
it to become known, it would for ever
blight the happiness of a trusting and gen-
erous man, whom I love still, and shall love

* Yours sincerely,

'Fancy Day/

The last written communication that
ever passed from the vicar to Fancy, was a
note containing these words only :

'Tell him everything; it is best. He
will forgive you.*

PartV. Conthmn.

Chapter T. * The Knot there's no Untying/

The last day of the story is dated just sub-
sequent to that point in the development
of the seasons when country people go to
bed among nearly naked trees, and awake
next morning among green ones ; when the
landscape appears embarrassed with the
sudden weight and brilliancy of its leaves ;
when the night-jar comes and commences
for the summer his tune of one note; when
the apple-trees have bloomed, and the roads
and orchards become spotted T\ith fallen
petals; when the faces of the delicate
flowers are darkened, and their heads
weighed down by the throng of honey-bees,
which increase their humming till humming
is too mild a term for the all-pervading
sound; and when cuckoos, blackbirds, and


sparrows, that have hitherto been merry
and respectful neighbours, become noisy
and persistent intimates.

The exterior of Geoffrey Day's house in
Yalbury Wood appeared exactly as was
usual at that season, but a frantic barking
of the dogs at the back told of unwonted
movements somewhere within. Inside the
door the eyes beheld a gathering, which
was a rarity indeed for the dwelling of the
solitary keeper.

About the room were sitting and stand-
ing, in various gnarled attitudes, our old
acquaintance, grandfathers James and Wil-
liam, the tranter, Mr. Penny, two or three
children, including Jimmy and Charley,
besides three or four country ladies and
gentlemen who do not require any dis-
tinction by name. Geoffrey was seen and
heard stamping about the outhouse and
among the bushes of the garden, attending
to details of daily routine before the proper
time arrived for their performance, in order
that they might be off his hands for the
d^y. He appeared with his shirt-sleeves


rolled up ; his best new nether garments, in
which he had arrayed himself that morn-
ing, being temporarily disguised under a
week-day apron whilst these proceedings
were in operation. He occasionally glanced
at the hives in passing, to see if the bees
were swarming, ultimately rolling down his
shirt-sleeves and going indoors, talking to
tranter Dewy whilst buttoning the wrist-
bands, to save time ; next going upstairs for
his best waistcoat, and coming down again
to make another remark whilst buttoning
that, during the time looking fixedly in
the tranter's face, as if he were a looking-

The furniture had undergone attenua-
tion to an alarming extent, every duplicate
piece having been removed, including the
clock by Thomas Wood ; Ezekiel Sparrow-
grass being at last left sole referee in mat-
ters of time.

Fancy was stationary upstairs, receiving
her layers of clothes and adornments, und
answering by short fragments of laughter
which had more fidgetiness than mirth ia


them, remarks that were made from time
to time by Mrs. Dewy and Mrs. Penny,
who were assisting her at the toilet, Mrs.
Day having pleaded a queerness in her
head as a reason for shutting herselt up in
an inner bedroom for the whole morning.
Mrs. Penny appeared with nine corkscrew
curls on each side of her temples, and a
back comb stuck upon her crown like a
castle on a steep.

The conversation just now going on
was concerning the banns, the last pubhca-
tion of which had been on the Sunday pre-

'And how did they sound?* Fancy
subtly inquired.

' Very beautiful indeed,' said Mrs. Pen-
ny. ' I never heard any sound better.'

'But A(?w;f'

' 0, so natural and elegant, didn't they,
Reuben!' she cried, through the chinks of
the unceiled floor, to the tranter downstairs.

' What's that ?' said the tranter, looking
up inquiringly at the floor above him for an


'Didn't Dick and Fancy sound well
wlien they were called home in church last
Sunday?' came downwards again in Mrs.
Penny's voice.

' Ay, that they did, my sonnies ! — especi-
ally the first time. There was a terrible
whispering piece of work in the congre-
gation, wasn't there, naibour Penny?' said
the tranter, taking up the thread of conver-
sation on his own account, and, in order to
be heard in the room above, speaking very
loudly to Mr. Penny, who sat at the dis-
tance of two feet from him, or rather less.

' I never remember seeing such a whis-
pering as there was,' said Mr. Penny, also
loudly, to the room above. * And such sor-
rowful envy on the maidens' faces; really,
I never see such envy as there was !'

Fancy's lineaments varied in innumer-
able little flushes, and her heart palpitated
innumerable little tremors of pleasure. ' But
perhaps,' she said, with assumed indiffer-
ence, ' it was only because no religion was
going on just then.'

' 0, no ; nothing to do with that. 'Twas


because of your high standing. It was just
as if they had one and all caught Dick kiss-
ing and coling ye to death, wasn't it, Mrs.
Dewy r

' Ay ; that 'twas.'

* How people will talk about people I'
Fancy exclaimed.

' Well, if you make songs about your-
self, my dear, you can't blame other people
for singing 'em.^

'Mercy me! how shall I go through
it?' said the young lady again, but merely
to those in the bedroom, with a breathing
of a kind between a sigh and a pant, round
shining eyes, and warm face.

' 0, you'll get through it well enough,
child,' said Mrs. Dewy placidly. ' The edge
of the performance is taken off at the call-
ing home; and when once you get up to
the chancel end o' the church, you feel as
saucy as you please. I'm sure I felt as
brave as a sodger all through the deed —
though of course I dropped my face and
looked modest, as was becoming to a maid
Mind you do that, Fancy,'


^ And I walked into the church as quiet
as a lamb, I'm sure/ subjoined Mrs. Penny.
' There, you see Penny is such a little small
man. But certainly, I was flurried in the
inside o' me. Well, thinks I, 'tis to be, and
here goes I And do you do the same : say,
" 'Tis to be, and here goes I" *

'Is there such a wonderful virtue in
your '"Tis to be, and here goes!"' inquired

' Wonderful I 'Twill carry a body through
it all from wedding to churching, if you
only let it out with spirit enough.'

'Very well, then,' said Fancy, blush-
ing. ' 'Tis to be, and here goes !'

' That's a girl for a husband !' said Mrs

' I do hope he'll come in time !' con-
tinued the bride -elect, inventing a new
cause of affright, now that the other was

' 'T would be a thousand pities if he
didn't come, now you be so brave,* said
Mrs. Penny.

Grandfather James, having overheard


some of these remarks, said downstairs
with mischievous loudness :

' IVe heard that at some weddings the
men don t come.'

' They've been known not to, before
now, certainly,* said Mr. Penny, cleaning
one of the glasses of his spectacles.

' 0, do hear what they are saying down-
stairs,' whispered Fancy. ' Hush, hush !'

She listened.

* They have, haven't they, Geoffrey V
continued grandfather James, as GeoflErey

' Have what T said Geoffrey.
*The men have been known not to

' That they have,' said the keeper.

* Ay ; I've knowed times when the wed-
ding had to be put off through his not
appearing, being tired of the woman. And
another case I knowed when the man was
catched in a man- trap crossing Mellstock
Wood, and the three months had run out
before he got well, and the banns had to bo
published over again.*


' How horrible !' said Fancy.

'They only say it on purpose to tease
you, my dear,' said Mrs. Dewy.

^ Tis quite sad to think what wretched
shifts poor maids have been put to,' came
again from downstairs. ' Ye should hear
Clerk Wilkins, my brother-law, tell his
experiences in marrying couples these last
thirty years: sometimes one thing, some-
times another — ^tis quite heart-rending —
enough to make your hair stand on end.'

'Those things don't happen very often,
I know,' said Fancy, with smouldering un-

'Well, really 'tis time Dick was here,'
said the tranter.

'Don't keep on at me so, grandfather
James and Mr. Dewy, and all you down
there !' Fancy broke out, unable to endure
any longer. ' I am sure I shall die, or do
something, if you do.'

' Never you hearken to these old chaps,
Miss Day!^ cried Nat Callcome, the best
man, who had just entered, and threw his
voice upward through the chinks of the


floor as the others had done. ' 'Tis all
right ; Dick's coming on like a wild feller ;
hell be here in a minute. The hive o' bees
his mother gie'd en for his new garden
irwarmed jist as he was starting, and he
said, " I can't afford to lose a stock o' bees ;
no, that I can't, though I fain would ; and
Fancy wouldn't wish it on any account."
So he jist stopped to ting to 'em and shake

* A genuine wise man,' said Geoffrey.

* To be sure, what a day's work we had
yesterday!' Mr. Callcome continued, lower-
ing his voice as if it were not necessary any
longer to include those in the room above
among his audience, and selecting a remote
comer of his best clean handkerchief for
wiping his face. ' To be sure !'

' Things so heavy, I suppose,' said Geof-
frey, as if reading through the chimney-
window from the far end of the pad-

* Ay,* said Nat, looking round the room
at points from which furniture had been re-
moved. 'And so awkward to carry, too.


Twas athwart and across Dick's garden ; in
and out Dick's door; up and down Dick's
stairs; round and round Dick's chammers
till legs were worn to stumps : and Dick is
so particular, too. And the stores of vic-
tuals and drink that lad has laid in: why,
'tis enough for Noah's arkl I'm sure I
ne^^er wish to see a choicer half-dozen of
hams than he's got there in his chimley;
and the cider I tasted was a very pretty
drop, indeed ; — never could desire a prettier
tasted cider.*

* They be for the love and the stalled ox
both. Ah, the greedy martels I' said grand-
father James.

*Well, may-be they be. "Surely," says
I, "that couple between 'em have heaped
up so much furniture and victuals, that
anybody would think they were going to
take hold the big end of married life first,
and begin wi' a grown-up family.'' Ah,
what a bath of heat we two chaps were
in, to be sure, a-getting that furniture in
order !*

* I do so wish the room below was ceiled,'


said Fancy, as the dressing went on; *they
can hear all we say and do up here/

* Hark ! Who's that T exclaimed a small
pupil-teacher, who also assisted this morn-
ing, to her great dehght. She ran half-way
down the stairs, and peeped round the ban-
ister. ' 0, you should, you should, you
should I* she exclaimed, scrambling up to
the room again.

*What? said Fancy.

*See the bridesmaids! TheyVe just
come ! 'Tis wonderful, really I 'tis wonderful
how muslin can be brought to it. There,
they don't look a bit like themselves, but
like some very rich sisters o' theirs that no-
body knew they had I'

*Make 'em come up to me, make 'em
come up I' cried Fancy ecstatically; and the
four damsels appointed, namely. Miss Susan
Dewy, Miss Bessie Dewy, Miss Vashti Sniff,
and Miss Mercy Onmey, surged upstairs,
and floated along the passage.

' I wish Dick would come I' was again
the burden of Fancy.

The same instant a small twig and flower


from the creeper outside the door flew in
at the open window, and a mascuHne voice
said, ' Keady, Fancy dearest ?'

' There he is, he is !' cried Fancy, titter-
ing spasmodically, and breathing as it were
for the first time that morning.

The bridesmaids crowded to the win-
dow and turned their heads in the direction
pointed out, at which motion eight ear-
rings all swung as one : — not looking
at Dick because they particularly wanted
to see him, but with an important sense of
their duty as obedient ministers of the ^vill
of that apotheosised being — the Bride.

' He looks very taking !' said Miss Vashti
Sniff, a young lady who blushed cream-
colour and wore yellow bonnet-ribbons.

Dick was advancing to the door in a
painfully new coat of shining cloth, prim-
rose-coloured waistcoat, hat of the same
painful style of newness, and with an extra
quantity of whiskers shaved off his face,
and his hair cut to an unwonted shortness
in honour of the occasion.

' Now I'll run down/ said Fancy, look-


ing at herself over her shoulder in the glass,
and flittinjj off.

^0 Dick!' she exclaimed, ' I am so glad
you are come ! I knew you would, of course,
but I thought, if you shouldn't!'

'Not come, Fancy! Het or wet, blow
or snow, here come I to-day ! Why, what's
possessing your little soul? You never used
to mind such things a bit.*

'Ah, Mr. Dick, I hadn't hoisted my
colours and committed myself then !' said

' 'Tis a pity I can't marry the whole
five of yel' said Dick, surveying them all

' Heh-heh-heh !' laughed the four brides-
maids, and Fancy privately touched Dick
and smoothed him down behind his shoul-
der, as if to assure herself that he was there
in flesh and blood as her own property.

' Well, whoever would have thought such
a thing ?' said Dick, taking off his hat, sink-
ing into a chair, and turning to the elder
members of the company.

The elder members of the company


arranged their eyes and lips to signify that
in their opinion nobody could have thought
such a thing, whatever it was.

'That my bees should have swarmed
just then, of all times and seasons!* con-
tinued Dick, throwing a comprehensive
glance like a net over the whole auditory.
' And 'tis a fine swarm, too : I haven't seen
6uch a fine swarm for these ten years.'

*An excellent sign,' said Mrs. Penny,
from the depths of experience. ' An excel-
lent sign.'

' I am glad everything seems so right,'
said Fancy with a breath of relief.

' And so am I,' said the four bridesmaids
with much sjTiipathy.

'Well, bees can't be put oif,' observed
grandfather James. ^ Marrying a woman is
a thing you can do at any moment; but a
swarm of bees won't come for the asking.'

Dick fanned himself with his hat. 'I
cant think,' he said thoughtfully, 'what-
ever 'twas I did to offend Mr. Maybold, — a
man I like so much too. He rather took to
me when he came first, and used to say he


should like to see me married, and that
he'd marry me, whether the young woman
I chose lived in his parish or no. I slightly
reminded him of it when I put in the banns,
but he didn't seem to take kindly to the
notion now, and so I said no more. I
wonder how it was.'

*I wonder,' said Fancy, looking into
vacancy with those beautiful eyes of hers —
too refined and beautiful for a tranter's
wife ; but, perhaps, not too good.

'Altered his mind, as folk will, I sup-
pose,' said the tranter. * Well, my sonnies,
there'll be a good strong party looking at
us to-day as we go along.*

'And the body of the church,' said
Geoffrey, 'vdll be Kned with feymells, and
a row of young fellers' heads, as far down
as the eyes, Avill be noticed just above the
sills of the chancel- winders.*

' Ay, you've been through it tmce,' said
Reuben, ' and well may know.'

'I can put up with it for once,' said
Dick, ' or tmce either, or a dozen times.'

' Dick !' said Fancy reproachfully.


'Why, dear, that's nothing,— only just
a bit of a flourish. You are as nervous as a
cat to-day.'

* And th^n, of course, when 'tis all over,*
continued the tranter, ^ we shall march two
and two round the parish.'

*Yes, sure,' said Mr. Penny: 'two and
two: every man hitched up to his woman,
'a b'lieve.'

' I never can make a show of myself in
that way!' said Fancy, looking at Dick to
ascertain if he could.

'I'm agreed to anything you and the
company likes, my dear !' said Mr. Richard
Dewy heartily.

'Why, we did when we were married,
didn't we, Ann?' said the tranter; 'and so
do everybody, my sonnies.'

' And so did we,' said Fancy's father.

' And so did Penny and I,' said Mrs.
Penny : ' I wore my best Bath clogs, I re-
member, and Penny was cross because it
made me look so tall.'

'And so did father and mother,' said
Miss Mercy Onmey.


' And I mane to, come next Christmas I*
said Nat the bridesman vigorously, and
looking towards the person of Miss Yashti

* Respectable people don't nowadays/
said Fancy. ^ Still, since poor mother did,


'Ay,' resumed the tranter, ''twas on a
White Tuesday when I committed it. Mell-
stock Club walked the same day, and we
new-married folk went a-gaying round the
parish behind 'em. Everybody used to wear
summat white at Whitsuntide in them days.
My sonnies, I've got they very white trou-
sers that I wore, at home in box now.
HaVtl, Ann?'

' You had till I cut 'em up for Jimmy,'
said Mrs. Dewy.

'And we ought, by rights, to go round
Galligar - lane, by Quenton's,' said Mr.
Penny, recovering scent of the matter in
hand. 'Dairyman Quenton is a very re-
spectable man, and so is Farmer Crocker,
and we ought to show ourselves to them.'

' True/ said the tranter, ' we ought to


go round Galligar - lane to do the thing
well. We shall form a very striking object
walking along : good-now, naibours ?'

* That we shall : a proper pretty sight
for the nation,' said Mrs. Penny.

'Hullo I' said the tranter, suddenly
catching sight of a singular human figure

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 13

Online LibraryThomas HardyUnder the greenwood tree or The mellstock quire : a rural painting of the dutch school → online text (page 13 of 14)