Thomas Hardy.

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

. (page 14 of 14)
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standing in the doorway, and wearing a
long smock-frock of pillow-case cut and of
snowy whiteness. ^Why, Leaf I whatever
dost thou do here ?'

' I've come to know if so be T can come
to the wedding — hee-hee!* said Leaf in an
uneasy voice of timidity.

' Now, Leaf,' said the tranter reproach-
fully, ' you know we don't want ye here to-
day: we've got no room for ye. Leaf.'

'Thomas Leaf, Thomas Leaf, fie upon
ye for prying !' said old William.

' I know I've got no head, but I thought,
if I washed and put on a clane shirt and
smock-frock, I might just call,' said Leaf,
turning away disappointed and trembling.

'Pore feller!' said the tranter, turning
to Geofirey. 'Suppose we must let en


come? His looks is rather against en, and
a is terrible silly; but a have never been
in jail, and 'a wont do no harm.'

Leaf looked with gratitude at the tranter
for these praises, and then anxiously at
Geoffrey, to see what effect they would have
in helping his cause.

*Ay, let en come,' said Geoffrey deci-
sively. ^ Leaf, th'rt welcome, 'st know ;' and
Leaf accordingly remained.

They were now all ready for leaving the
house, and began to form a procession in
the following order: Fancy and her father,
Dick and Susan Dewy, Nat Callcome and
Vashti Sniff, Ted Waywood and Mercy On-
mey, and Jimmy and Bessy Dewy. These
formed the executive, and all appeared in
strict wedding attire. Then came the
tranter and Mrs. Dewy, and last of all, Mr.
and Mrs. Penny; — the tranter conspicuous
by his enormous gloves, size eleven and
three-quarters, which appeared at a distance
like boxing gloves bleached, and sat rather
awkwardly upon his brown hands; this
hall-mark of respectability having been set


upon himself to-day (by Fancy's special re-
quest) for the first time in his life.

' The proper way is for the bridesmaids
to walk together/ suggested Fancy.

'What? 'Twas always young man and
young woman, arm in crook, in my time !'
said Geoffrey, astounded.

' And in mine !' said the tranter.

' And in ours !' said Mr. and Mrs. Penny.

* Never heard o' such a thing as woman
and woman!' said old William; who, with
grandfather James and Mrs. Day, was to
stay at home.

' Whichever way you and the company
likes, my dear!' said Dick, who being on
the point of securing his right to Fancy,
seemed willing to renounce all other rights
in the world with the greatest pleasure.
The decision was left to Fancy.

'Well, I think I'd rather have it the
way mother had it,' she said, and the cou-
ples moved along under the trees, every
man to his maid.

' Ah !' said grandfather James to grand-
father William as they retired, ' I wonder


which she thinks most about, Dick or her
wedding raiment!'

* Well, 'tis their nater/ said grandfather
William. ^ Remember the words of the pro-
phet Jeremiah : " Can a maid forget her or-
naments, or a bride her attire?" '

Now among dark perpendicular firs, like
the shafted columns of a cathedral; now
under broad beeches in bright young leaves,
they threaded their way: then through a
hazel copse, matted with primroses and wild
hyacinths, into the high road, which dipped
at that point directly into the village of
Yalbury; and in the space of a quarter of
an hour, Fancy found herself to be Mrs.
Richard Dewy, though, much to her sur-
prise, feeling no other than Fancy Day still.

On the circuitous return walk through
the lanes and fields, amid much chattering
and laughter, especially when they came to
stiles, Dick discerned a brown spot far up a
turnip field.

'Why, 'tis Enoch!' he said to Fancy. *I
thought I missed him at the house this
morning. How is it he's left you T

'He drank too much cider, and it got


into his head, and they put him in the
stocks for it. Father was obliged to get
somebody else for a day or two, and Enoch
hasn't had anything to do with the woods

' We might ask him to call down to-
night. Stocks are nothing for once, con-
sidering 'tis our wedding-day.' The bridal
party was ordered to halt.

* Eno-o-o-o-ch !' cried Dick at the top
of his voice.

' Y-a-a-a-a-a-as I' said Enoch from the

* D'ye know who I be-e-e-e-e-e T
' No-o-o-o-o-o-o!'

* Dick Dew-w-w-w-wy 1*

' Just a-ma-a-a-a-a-arried P

* This is my wife, Fa-a-a-a-a-ancy !' (hold-
ing her up to Enoch's view as if she had
been a nosegay.)


'Will ye come down to the party to-
ni-i-i-i-i-i-ight !'

' Ca-a-a-a-a-an't I'


' Why n-0-o-o-o-ot ?'

* Don't work for the family no-o-o-o-ow I'

^ Not nice of Master Enoch,' said Dick,
as they resumed their walk.

'You mustn't blame en,' said Geoffrey;
Hhe man's not himself now; he's in his
morning frame of mind. When he's had a
gallon o' cider or ale, and a pint or two of
mead, the man's well enough, and his man-
ners be as good as anybody's in the king



The point in Yalbury Wood which
abutted on the end of Geoffrey Day's pre-
mises was closed with an ancient beech-tree,
horizontally of enormous extent, though hav-
ing no great pretentions to height. Many
hundreds of birds had been born amidst the
boughs of this single tree ; tribes of rabbits
and hares had nibbled at its bark from year
to year; quaint tufts of fungi had sprung


from the cavities of its forks ; and countless
families of moles and earthworms had crept
about its roots. Beneath its shade spread a
carefully-tended grass-plot, its purpose be-
ing to supply a healthy exercise-ground for
young chicken and pheasants: the hens,
their mothers, being enclosed in coops
placed upon the same green flooring.

All these encumbrances were now re-
moved, and as the afternoon advanced, the
guests gathered on the spot, where music,
dancing, and the singing of songs went
forward with great spirit throughout the
evening. The propriety of every one was
intense, by reason of the influence of Fancy,
who, as an additional precaution in this
direction, had strictly charged her father
and the tranter to carefully avoid saying
Hhee' and Hhou' in their conversation, on
the plea that those ancient words sounded
so very humiliating to persons of decent
taste ; also that they w^ere never to be seen
drawing the back of the hand across the
mouth after drinking, — a local English cus-
tom of extraordinary antiquity, but stated


by Fancy to be decidedly dying out among
the upper classes of society.

In addition to the local musicians pre-
sent, a man who had a thorough knowledge
of the tambourine was invited from the vil-
lage of Tantrum Clangley, — a place long
celebrated for the skill of its inhabitants as
performers on instruments of percussion.
These important members of the assembly
were relegated to a height of two or three
feet from the ground, upon a temporary
erection of planks supported by barrels.
Whilst the dancing progressed, the older
persons sat in a group under the trunk of
the beech, — the space being allotted to them
somewhat grudgingly by the young ones,
who were greedy of pirouetting room, — and
fortified by a table against the heels of the
dancers. Here the gaffers and gammers,
whose dancing days were over, told stories
of great impressiveness, and at intervals
surveyed the advancing and retiring couples
from the same retreat, as people on shore
might be supposed to survey a naval en-
gagement in the bay beyond ; returning


again to their tales when the pause was
over. Those of the w^hirling throng, who,
during the rests between each figure, turned
their eyes in the direction of these seated
ones, were only able to discover, on ac-
count of the music and bustle, that a very
striking circumstance was in course of nar-
ration — denoted by an emphatic sweep of
the hand, snapping of the fingers, close of
the lips, and fixed look into the centre of
the listener s eye for the space of a quartei
of a minute, which raised in that listener
such a reciprocating working of face as to
sometimes make the distant dancers half
wish to know what such an interesting tale
could refer to.

Fancy caused her looks to wear as much
matronly expression as was obtainable out
of six hours' experience as a wife, in order
that the contrast between her own state of
life and that of the unmarried young women
present might be duly impressed upon the
company : occasionally stealing glances of
admiration at her left hand, but this quite
privately; for her ostensible bearing con


cerDing the matter was intended to show
tliat, though she undoubtedly occupied the
most wondrous position in the eyes of the
world that had ever been attained, she was
almost unconscious of the circumstance, and
that the somewhat prominent position in
which that wonderfully - emblazoned left
hand was continually found to be placed,
when handing cups and saucers, knives,
forks, and glasses, was quite the result of ac-
cident. As to wishing to excite envy in the
bosoms of her maiden companions, by the ex-
hibition of the shining ring, every one was to
know it was quite foreign to the dignity of
such an experienced married woman. Dick's
imao-ination in the mean time was far less
capable of drawing so much wontedness
from his new condition. He had been for
two or three hours trying to feel himself
merely a newly-married man, but had been
able to get no farther in the attempt than
to realise that he was Dick Dewy, the
tranter's son, at a party at the keeper's,
dancing and chatting with Fancy Day.
Five country dances, including 'Haste


to the Wedding,' two reels, and three frao;-
ments of hornpipes, brought them to the
time for supper, which, on account of the
dampness of the grass from the immaturity
of the summer season, was spread indoors.
At the conclusion of the meal, Dick went
out to put the horse in; and Fancy, with
the elder half of the four bridesmaids, re-
tired upstairs to dress for the journey to
Dick's new cottage near Mellstock.

' How long will you be putting on your
bonnet, Fancy T Dick inquired at the foot
of the staircase. Being now a man of busi-
ness and married, he was strong on the im-
portance of time, and doubled the emphasis
of his words in conversing, and added vigour
to his nods.

' Only a minute.'

' How long is that ?

' Well, dear, five.'

* Ah, sonnies !' said the tranter, as Dick
retired, * 'tis a talent of the female race that
low numbers should stand for high, more
especially in matters of waiting, matters o^
age, and matters of money.'


* True, true, upon my body,' said Geof-

*Ye spak with feeling, Geoffrey, seem-

* Anybody that d'know my experience
migh^ guess that/

' What's she doing now, Geoffrey ?'

' Claning out all the upstairs drawers
and cupboards, and dusting the second-
best chainey — a thing that's only done
once a year. "If there's work to be
done, I must do it," says she, "wedding
or no.^' '

' Tis my belief she's a very good woman
at bottom.'

' She's terrible deep, then/

Mrs. Penny turned round. 'Well, 'tis
humps and hollers with the best of us;
but still and for all that, Dick and Fancy
stand as fair a chance of having a bit of
sunsheen as any married pair in the land.'

' Ay, there's no gainsaying it.'

Mrs. Dew}" came up, talking to one per-
son and looking at another. ' Happy, yes,'
she said. ' 'Tis always so when a couple is


80 exactly in tune with one another as Dick
and she/

* When they be n't too poor to have time
to sing,' said grandfather James.

*I tell ye, naibours, when the pinch
comes,' said the tranter: 'when the oldest
daughter's boots be only a size less than her
mother's, and the rest o' the flock close be-
hind her. A sharp time for a man that, my
sonnies; a very sharp time! Chanticleer's
comb is a-cut then, 'a b'lieve.'

* That's about the form o't,' said Mr.
Penny. ' That'll put the stuns upon a man,
when you must measure mother and daugh-
ter's lasts to tell 'em apart.'

'You've no cause to complain, Reuben,
of such a close-coming flock,' said Mrs.
Dewy; 'for ours was a straggling lot
enough, God knows !'

'I d'know it, I d'know it,' said the
tranter. 'You be a well-enough woman,

Mrs. Dewy put her mouth in the form
of a smile, aud put it back again without


* And if they come together, they go to-
gether,' said Mrs. Penny, whose family was
the reverse of the tranter's ; ' and a little
money will make either fate tolerable. And
money can be made by our young couple, I

' Yes, that it can !' said the impulsive
voice of Leaf, who had hitherto humbly ad-
mired the proceedings from a corner. *It
can be done — all that's wanted is a few
pounds to begin with. That's all ! 1 know
a story about it !'

* Let's hear thy story. Leaf,' said the
tranter. ' I never knowed you were clever
enough to tell a story. Silence, all of ye I
Mr. Leaf will tell a story.'

' Tell your story, Thomas Leaf,' said
grandfather WiUiam in the tone of a school"

* Once,' said the delighted Leaf, in an
uncertain voice, ' there was a man who lived
in a house ! Well, this man went thinking
and thinking night and day. At last, he
said to himself, as I might, " If I had only
ten pound, I'd make a fortune." At last by


hook or by crook, behold he got the ten
pounds !'

' Only think of that !' said Nat Callcome

^ Silence !' said the tranter.

' Well, now comes the interesting part
of the story ! In a little time he made that
ten pounds twenty. Then a little time after
that he doubled it, and made it forty. Well,
he went on, and a good while after that he
made it eighty, and on to a hundred. Well,
by and by he made it two hundred I Well,
you'd never believe it, but — he went on and
made it four hundred I He went on, and
what did he do? Why, he made it eight
hundred I Yes, he did,' continued Leaf, in
the highest pitch of excitement, bringing
down his fist upon his knee with such force
that he quivered with the pain; 'yes, and
he went on and made it a thousand !'

' Hear, hear !' said the tranter. ' Better
than the history of England, my sonnies T

'Thank you for your story, Thomas
Leaf,' said grandfather William; and then
Leaf gradually sank into nothingness again.



Amid a medley of laughter, old shoes,
and elder-wine, Dick and his bride took
their departure, side by side in the excel-
lent new spring-cart which the young tran-
ter now possessed. The moon was just over
the full, rendering any light from lamps or
their own beauties quite unnecessary to the
pair. They drove slowly along Wilderness
Bottom, where the lane passed between
two copses. Dick was talking to his com-

'Fancy,' he said, ' why we are so happy
is because there is such entire confidence
between us. Ever since that time you con-
fessed to that little flirtation with Shinar by
the river (which was really no flirtation at
all), I have thought how artless and good
you must be to tell me of such a trifling
thing, and to be so frightened about it as
you were. It has won me to tell you my
every movement since then. We'll have
no secrets from each other, darling, will we
ever? — ^no secret at all.*

^ None trom to-day,/ said iancy. 'Hark I
what's tnat?


From a neighbouring thicket was sud-
denly heard to issue in a loud, musical, and
liquid voice,

* Tippiwit I swe-e-et I ki-ki-ki I Come
hither, come hither, come hither I'

'0, 'tis the nightingale,' murmured she,
and thought of a secret she should never


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