Thomas Hardy.

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

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time went my teeth among the fried liver
and lights as true as a hair. Beautiful
'twere ! Ah, I shall never forget that there

* That's as musical a circumstance as ever
I heard of,' said grandfather James, with
the absent gaze which accompanies pro-
found criticism.

* I don't like Michael's musical circum-
sitances then,' said Mrs. Dewy. ' They are
quite coarse to a person of decent taste.*

Old Michael's mouth twitched here and
there, as if he wanted to smile but didn't
know where to begin, which gradually set-
tled to an expression that it was not dis-
pleasing for a nice woman like the tranter's
wife to correct him.

* Well, now,' said Reuben, with decisive
earnestness, ^ that coarseness that's so up-
setting to Ann's feelings is to my mind a
recommendation ; for it do always prove a
story to be true. And for the same reason,
I like a story with a bad moral. My sonnies,
all true stories have a coarseness or a bad
moral, depend upon't. If the story-tellers


could have got decency and good morals
from true stories, who'd ha' troubled to in-
vent parables ?' Saying this the tranter arose
to fetch a new stock of cider, mead, and
home-made wines.

Mrs. Dew}^ sighed, and appended a re-
mark (ostensibly behind her husband's back,
though that the words should reach his ears
distinctly was understood by both) : ' Such
a man as Dewy is ! nobody do know the
trouble I have to keep that man barely re-
spectable. And did you ever hear too —
just now at supper- time — talking about
"taties" with Michael in such a labourer's
way. Well, 'tis what I was never brought
up to! With our family 'twas never less
than " taters,'' and very often " pertatoes"
outright ; mother was so particular and nice
with us girls : there was no family in the
parish that kept theirselves up more than

The hour of parting came. Fancy could
not remain for the night, because she had
engaged a woman to wait up for her. She
disappeared temporarily from the flagging


party of dancers, and then came downstairs
wrapped up and looking altogether a differ-
ent person from whom she had been hither-
to, in fact (to Dick's sadness and disap-
pointment), a woman somewhat reserved
and of a phlegmatic temperament — nothing
left in her of the romping girl that she had
been but a short quarter-hour before, who
had not minded the weight of Dick's hand
upon her waist, nor shirked the purlieus of
the mistletoe.

' What a contradiction !' thought the
young man — hoary cynic 'pro tern, ^ What
a miserable delusive contradiction between
the manners of a maid's life at dancing times
and at others I Look at this idol Fancy ! dur-
ing the whole past evening touchable, press-
able — even kissable. For whole half-hours
I held her so close to me that not a sheet
of paper could have been slipped between
us; and I could feel her heart only just out-
side my own, her existence going on so
close to mine, that I was aware of every
breath in it. A flit is made to the bedroom
— a hat and a cloak put on — and I no more


dare to touch her than — ' Thouo-ht failed
him, and he returned to life.

But this was an endurable misery in
comparison with what followed. Mr. Shinar
and his watch-chain, taking the intrusive ad-
vantage that ardent males who are going
homeward along the same road as a pretty-
young female always do take of that cir-
cumstance, came forward to assure Fancy
— with a total disregard of Dick's emotions,
and in tones which were certainly not frigid
— that he (Shinar) was not the man to go
to bed before seeing his Lady Fair safe
within her own door — not he : nobody
should say he was that ; — and that he would
not leave her side an inch till the thing was
done — drown him if he would. The pro-
posal was assented to by Miss Day, in Dick's
foreboding judgment with one degree — or
at any rate, an appreciable fraction of a
degree — of warmth beyond that required by
a disinterested desire for protection from
the dangers of the night.

All was over; and Dick surveyed the
chair she had last occupied, looking now


like a setting from which the gem has been
torn. There stood her glass, and the ro-
mantic teaspoonful of elder wine at the bot-
tom that she couldn't drink by trying ever
so hard, in obedience to the mighty argu-
ments of the tranter (his hand coming
down upon her shoulder the while, like a
Nasmyth hammer) ; but the drinker was
there no longer. There were the nine or
ten pretty little crumbs she had left on her
plate ; but the eater was no more seen.

There seemed to be a disagreeable close-
ness of relationship between himself and the
members of his family, now that they were
left alone again face to face. His father
seemed quite offensive for appearing to be
in just as high spirits as when the guests
were there ; and as for grandfather James
(who had not yet left), he was quite fiendish
in being rather glad they were gone.

' Really,' said the tranter, in a tone of
placid satisfaction, * I've had so little time
to attend to myself all the evenen, that I
mane to enjoy a quiet meal now! A slice
of this here ham — neither too fat nor too


lane — so ; and then a drop of this vinegar
and pickles — there, that's it — and I «hall
be as fresh as a lark again ! And to tell
the truth, my sonny, my inside H^e a-been
as dry as a lime -basket all night.'

' I like a party very well,' said Mrs.
Dewy, leaving oflp the adorned tones she
had been bound to use throughout the
evening, and returning to the natural mar-
riage voice ; ' but, lord, 'tis such a sight of
heavy work next day ! And what with the
plates, and knives and forks, and bits kicked
off your furniture, and I don't know what-
all, why a body could a'most wish there
were no such things as Christmases, Ah-h
dear !' she yawned, till the clock in the
corner had ticked several beats. She cast
her eyes round upon the dust-laden fur-
niture, and sank down overpowered at the

' Well, I be getting all right by degrees,
thank the Lord for't !' said the tranter
cheerfully through a mangled mass of ham
and bread, without lifting his eyes from his
plate, and chopping away with his knife


and fork as if he were felling trees. ' Ann,
you may as well go on to bed at once, and
not bide there making such sleepy faces;
you look as long-favoured as a fiddle, upon
my life, Ann. There, you must be wearied
out, ^tis true. I'll do the doors and wind
up the clock ; and you go on, or you'll be as
white as a sheet to-morrow.'

' Ay ; I don't know whether I sha'n't or
no.* The matron passed her hand across
her eyes to brush away the film of sleep till
she got upstairs.

Dick wondered how it was that when
people were married they could be so bhnd
to romance; and was quite certain that if
he ever took to wife that dear impossible
Fancy, he and she would never be so dread-
fully practical and undemonstrative of the
Passion as his father and mother were. The
most extraordinary thing was, that all the
fathers and mothers he knew were just as
undemonstrative as his own.




The early days of the year drew on, and
Fancy, having passed the holiday weeks at
home, returned again to Mellstock.

Every spare minute of the week follow-
ing her return was spent by Dick in acci-
dentally passing the school-house in his
journeys about the neighbourhood; but not
once did she make herself visible. A hand-
kerchief belonging to her had been provi-
dentially found by his mother in clearing
the rooms the day after that of the dance ;
and by much contrivance Dick got it handed
over to him, to leave with her at any time
he was passing the school after her return.
But he delayed taking the extreme measure
of calling with it lest, had she really no
sentiment of interest in him, it might be
regarded as a slightly absurd errand, the
reason guessed ; and the sense of the ludi-
crous, which was rather keen in her, might
do his dignity considerable injury in her


eyes: and what she thought of him, even
apart from the question of her loving, was
all the world to him now.

But the hour came when the patience
of love at twenty -one could endure no
longer. One Saturday he approached the
school with a mild air of indifference, and
had the satisfaction of seeing the object of
his quest at the farther end of her garden,
trying, by the aid of a spade and gloves, to
root a bramble that had intruded itself there.

He disguised his feelings from some sus-
picious-looking cottage- windows opposite, by
endeavouring to appear like a man in a
great hurry of business, who wished to
leave the handkerchief and have done with
such trifling errands.

This endeavour signally failed; for on
approaching the gate, he found it locked to
keep the children, who were playing pri-
soner's base in the front, from running into
her private grounds.

She did not see him ; and he could only
think of one thing to be done, which was
to shout her name.


* Miss Day!'

The words were uttered with a jerk and
a look, which were meant to imply to the
cottages opposite that he was simply a young
man who liked shouting, as being a plea-
sant way of passing his time, without any
reference at aU to persons in gardens. The
name died away, and the unconscious Miss
Day continued digging and pulling as

He screwed himself up to enduring the
cottage -windows yet more stoically, and
shouted again. Fancy took no notice what-

He shouted again the third time, with
desperate vehemence ; then turned suddenly
about and retired a little distance, as if he
had no connection with the school, but was
standing there by chance.

This time she heard him, came down
the garden, and entered the school at the
back. Footsteps echoed across the interior,
the door opened, and three-quarters of the
blooming young schoolmistress's face and
figure stood revealed before him ; a perpen-


dicular slice on her left-hand side being cut
off by the edge of the door she held ajar.
Having surveyed and recognised hira, she
came to the gate.

At sight of him had the pink of her
cheeks increased, lessened, or did it con-
tinue to cover its normal area of ground ?
It was a question meditated several hun-
dreds of times by her visitor in after-hours
— the meditation, after wearying involu-
tions, always ending in one way, that it was
impossible to say.

' Your handkerchief: Miss Day : I called
with.* He held it out spasmodically and
awkwardly. 'Mother found it: under a

' 0, thank you very much for bringing
it, Mr. Dewy. I couldn't think where I
had dropped it.*

Now Dick, not being an experienced
lover — indeed, never before having been
engaged in the practice of love-making at
all, except in a small schoolboy way — could
not take advantage of the situation; and
out came the blunder, which afterwards


cost him SO many bitter moments and three
sleepless nights : —

* Good-morning, Miss Day.'

* Good-morning, Mr. Dewy/

The gate was closed ; she was gone ; and
Dick was standing outside, unchanged in
his condition from what he had been before
he called. Of course Angel was not to
blame — a young woman living alone in a
house could not ask him indoors unless she
had known him better — he should have
kept her outside. He wished that before
he called he had realised more fully than
he did the pleasure of being about to call;
and turned away.

PartII. ^pnnj

Chapter I. Passing by the School

It followed that as the spring advanced,
Dick walked abroad much more frequently
than had hitherto been usual mth him, and
was continually finding that his nearest
way to or from home lay across the field at
the corner of the school. The first-fruits
of his perseverance were that, on turning
the angle on the nineteenth journey that
way, he saw Miss Fancy's figure, clothed in
a dark-gray dress, looking from a high open
window upon the crown of his hat. The
friendly greeting, which was the result of
this rencounter, was considered so valuable
an elixir that Dick passed still oftener ; and
by the time he had trodden a little path in
the grass where never a path was before,


he was rewarded with an actual meeting
face to face on the open ground. This
brought another meeting, and another,
Fancy faintly showing by her bearing that
it was a pleasure to her of some kind to see
him there ; but the sort of pleasure she de-
rived, whether exultation at the hope her
exceeding fairness inspired, or the true feel-
ing which was alone Dick's concern, he could
not anyhow decide, although he meditated
on her every little movement for hours after
it was made.



It was the evening of a fine spring day.
The descending sun appeared as a nebulous
blaze of amber light, its outline being lost
in cloudy masses hanging round it, like
wild locks of hair.

The chief members of Mellstock parish
choir were standing in a group in front of
Mr. Penny's workshop in the lower village.


They were all brightly illuminated, and
each was backed up by a shadow as long as
a steeple ; the lowness of the source of light
rendering the brims of their hats of no use
at all as a protection to the eyes.

Mr. Penny^s was the last house in that
portion of the parish, and stood in a hollow
by the road-side; so that cart-wheels and
horses' feet were about level with the sill
of his shop-window. This was low and
wide, and was open from morning till even-
ing, Mr. Penny himself being invariably
seen working inside, like a framed portrait
of a shoemaker by some modern Moroni. He
sat facing the road, with a boot on his knees
and the awl in his hand, only looking up for
a moment as he stretched out his arms and
bent forward at the pull, when his spectacles
flashed in the passer's face with a shine of
flat whiteness, and then returned again to
the boot as usual. Rows of lasts, small and
large, stout and slender, covered the wall
which formed the background, in the ex-
treme shadow of which a kind of dummy
was seen sitting, in the shape of ap appreu-


tice with a string tied round his hair (pro-
bably to keep it out of his eyes). He smiled
at remarks that floated in from the outside,
but was never known to answer them in
Mr. Penny's presence. Outside the window,
the upper-leather of a Wellington-boot was
usually hung, pegged to a board as if to
dry. No sign was over his door ; in fact —
as with old banks and mercantile houses —
advertising in any shape was scorned, and
it would have been felt as beneath his dig-
nity to paint, for the benefit of strangers,
the name of an establishment the trade of
which came solely by connection based on
personal respect.

His visitors now stood on the outside
of his window, sometimes leanino^ a2:ainst
the sill, sometimes moving a pace or two
backwards and forwards in front of it. They
talked with deliberate gesticulations to Mr.
Penny, enthroned in the shadow of the in-

* I do like a man to stick to men who
be in the same line o' life — o' Sundays, any
way — that I do so.'


' 'Tis like all the doings of folk who don't
know what a day's work is, that's what 1 say.'

' My belief is the man's not to blame ;
'tis she — she's the bitter weed/

' No, not altogether. He's a poor gawk-
hammer. Look at his sermon yesterday.'

' His sermon was well enough, a very
excellent sermon enough, only he couldn't
put it into words and speak it. That's all
was the matter wi' the sermon. He hadn't
been able to get it past his pen.'

' Well — ay, the sermon might be good
enough ; for, ye see, the sermon of Old
Ecclesiastes himself lay in Old Ecclesiastes's
ink-bottle afore he got it out.'

Mr. Penny, being in the act of drawing
the last stitch tight, could aiFord time to
look up and throw in a word at this point.

' He's no spouter — that must be said,
'a b'lieve.'

' 'Tis a terrible muddle sometimes with
the man, as far as that goes,' said Spinks.

^ Well, we'll say nothing about that,*
the tranter answered ; ' for I don't believe
'twill make a penneth o' difference to we


poor martels here or hereafter whether hia
sermons be good or bad, my sonnies.'

Mr. Penny made another hole with his
awl, pushed in the thread, and looked up
and spoke again at the extension of arms.

' 'Tis his goings-on, souls, that's what
it is.' He clenched his features for an Her-
culean addition to the ordinary pull, and
went on, *The first thing he do when he
cam here was to be hot and strong about
church business.'

' Trew,' said Spinks; ' that was the very
first thing he do.'

Mr. Penny, having now been offered the
ear of the assembly, accepted it, ceased
stitching, swallowed an unimportant quan-
tity of air as if it were a pill, and con-
tinued :

' The next thing he do is to think about
altering the church, until he found 'twould
be a matter o' cost and what not, and then
not to think no more about it.'

' Trew : that was the next thing he do.*

* And the next thing was to tell the
young chaps that they were not on no ac-


count to put their hats in the font during

' Trew.'

' And then 'twas this, and then *twas
that, and now 'tis — '

Words were not forcible enough to con-
clude the sentence, and Mr. Penny gave a
huge pull to signify the concluding word.

' Now 'tis to turn us out of the quire
neck and crop,' said the tranter after a
silent interval of half a minute, not at all
by way of explaining the pause and pull,
which had been quite understood, but sim-
ply as a means of keeping the subject well
before the meeting.

Mrs. Penny came to the door at this
point in the discussion. Like all good
wives, however much she was incHned to
play the Tory to her husband's Whiggism,
and vice versd^ in times of peace, she coa-
lesced with him heartily enough in time of

* It must be owned he's not all there,*
she replied, in a general way, to the frag-
ments of talk she had heard from indoors.


'Far below poor Mr. Grinham' (the late

* Ay, there was this to be said for him,
that you were quite sure he'd never come
mumbudgeting to see ye, just as you were
in the middle of your work, and put you
out with his anxious trouble about you —
so say L'

' Never. But as for this new Mr. May-
bold, he's a very singular, well-intentioned
party in that respect, but unbearable; for
as to sifting your cinders, scrubbing your
floors, or emptying your soap-suds, why you
can't do it. I assure you I've not been
able to empt them for several days, unless
I throw 'em up the chimley or out of win-
der; for as sure as the sun you meet him
at the door, coming to ask how you be,
and 'tis such a confusing thing to meet a
gentleman at the door when ye are in the
mess o' washing.'

* 'Tis only for want of knowing better,
poor gentleman,' said the tranter. ' His
maning's good enough. Ay, your parson
comes by fate : 'tis heads or tails, like pitch-


halfpenny, and no choosing ; so we must take
en as he is, my sonnies, and thank God he's
no worse, I suppose.'

' I fancy I've seen him look across at
Miss Day in a warmer way than Chris-
tianity required,' said Mrs. Penny mus-
ingly; ' but I don't quite like to say W

*0, no; there's nothing in that,' said
grandfather William.

4f there's nothing, we shall see nothing,'
Mrs. Penny replied, in the tone of a woman
who might possibly have private opinions still.

* Ah, Mr. Grinham was the man !' said
Bowman. ' Why, he never troubled us wi'
a visit from year's end to year's end. You
might go anywhere, do anything : you'd be
sure never to see him.'

' 'A was a right sensible parson,' said
Michael. ' He never entered our door but
once in his life, and that was to tell my
poor wife — ay, poor soul, dead and gone
now, as we all shall ! — that as she was such
a old aged person, and lived so far from
the church, he didn't at all expect her to
come any more to the service.'


' And 'a was a very jinerous gentleman
about choosing the psalms and hymns o' Sun-
days. " Confound ye," says he, '' blare and
scrape what ye like, but don't bother me !" '

' And he was a very honourable good
man in not wanting any of us to come and
hear him if we were all on-end for a jaunt
or spree, or to bring the babies to be chris-
tened if they were inclined to squalling.
There's virtue in a man's not putting a
parish to spiritual trouble.'

' And there's this man never letting us
have a bit of peace ; but wanting us to be
good and upright till 'tis carried to such a
shameful pitch as I never see the like afore
nor since!'

' Still, for my part,' said old William,
' though he's arrayed against us, I like the
hearty borus-snorus ways of the new pa'son.'

' You, ready to die for the quire,' said
Bowman reproachfully, ^ to stick up for the
quire's enemy, William !'

' Nobody will feel the loss of our occu-
pation so much as I,' said the old man
firmly; ^ that you d'all know. I've been


in the quire man and boy ever since I was
a chiel of eleven. But for all that 'tisn't in
me to call the man a bad man, because I
truly and sincerely believe en to be a good
young feller.'

Some of the youthful sparkle that used
to reside there animated William's eye as
he uttered the words, and a certain nobility
of aspect was also imparted to him by the
setting sun, which gave him a Titanic sha-
dow at least thirty feet in length, stretching
away to the east in outlines of imposing
magnitude, his head finally terminating
upon the trunk of a grand old oak-tree.

' Mayble's a hearty feller,' the tranter
rephed, * and will spak to you be you dirty
or be you clane. The first time I met en
was in a drong, and though 'a didn't know
me no more than the dead, 'a passed the
time of day. " D'ye do?" he said, says he,
nodding his head, '' A fine day." Then the
second time I met en was full-bufi" in town
street, when my breeches were tore all to
strents and lippets by getting through a
copse of thorns and brimbles for a short


cut home - alono: ; and not wantino^ to dis-
grace the man by spaking in that state, I
fixed my eye on the Aveathercock to let en
pass me as a stranger. But no : " How
d'ye do, Keuben ?" says he, right hearty. If
I'd been dressed in silver spangles from top
to toe, the man couldn't have been civiller.'
At this moment Dick was seen coming
up the village- street, and they turned and
watched him.



'I'm afraid Dick's a lost man,' said the

' What ? — no !' said Mail, implying by
his manner that it was a far commoner
thing for his ears to report what was not
said than that his judgment should be at

' Ay,' said the tranter, still looking at
Dick's unconscious advance. ' I don't at
all like what I see! There's too many


o' them looks out of the winder without
noticing anything ; too much shining of
boots ; too much peeping round corners ;
too much looking at the clock ; telling
about clever things She did till you be sick
of it, and then upon a hint to that effect a
horrible silence about her. I've walked the
path once in my life and know the country,
naibours; and Dick's a lost man!' The
tranter turned a quarter round and smiled
a smile of miserable satire at the rising new
moon, which happened to catch his eye.

The others' looks became far too serious
at this announcement to allow them to speak ;
and they still regarded Dick in the dis-

' 'Twas his mother's fault,' the tranter
continued, shaking his head two-and-half
times, ' in asking the young woman to our
party last Christmas. When I eyed the
blue frock and light heels o' the maid, I
had my thoughts directly. ^' God bless
thee, Dicky my sonny," I said to myself
" there's a delusion for thee !" '

*They seemed to be rather distant in


manner last Sunday, I thought,' said Mail

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Online LibraryThomas HardyUnder the greenwood tree or The mellstock quire : a rural painting of the dutch school → online text (page 5 of 14)