Thomas Hardy.

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

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the matter by getting out and assisting her
into the vehicle without another word.

The temporary flush upon her cheek
changed to a leeser hue, which was perma-
nent, and at length their eyes met; there
was present between them a certain feeling


of embarrassment, which arises at such mo-
ments when all the instinctive acts dictated
by the position have been performed. Dick,
being engaged with the reins, thought less
of this awkwardness than did Fancy, who
had nothing to do but to feel his presence,
and to be more and more conscious of the
fact, that by accepting a seat beside him in
this way she succumbed to the tone of his
note. Smart jogged along, and Dick jogged,
and the helpless Fancy necessarily jogged,
too; and she felt that she was in a measure
captured and made a prisoner.

* I am so much obliged to you for your
company, Miss Day.'

To Miss Day, crediting him with the
same consciousness of mastery — a con-
sciousness of which he was perfectly inno-
cent — this remark sounded like a magnani-
mous intention to soothe her, the captive.

'I didn't come for the pleasure of ob-
liging you with my company,^ she said.

The answer had an unexpected manner
of incivility in it that must have been rather
surprising to young Dewy. At the same


time it may be observed, that when a young
woman returns a rude answer to a youno^
man's civil remark, her heart is in a state
which argues rather hopefully for his case
than otherwise.

There was silence between them till
they had passed about twenty of the equi-
distant elm- trees that ornamented the road
leading up out of the town.

' Though I didn't come for that purpose
either, I would have,' said Dick at the
twenty-first tree.

'Now, Mr. Dewy, no flirtation, because
it's wrong, and I don't wish it.'

Dick seated himself afresh just as he
had been sitting before, and arranged his
looks very emphatically, then cleared his

' Really, anybody would think you had
met me on business and were just going to
begin,' said the lady intractably.

' Yes, they would.'

' Why, you never have, to be sure !'

This was a shaky beginning. He chopped
round, and said cheerily, as a man who


had resolved never to spoil his jollity by
loving one of womankind,

'Well, how are you getting on, Miss
Day, at the present time? Gaily, I don't
doubt for a moment.'

* I am not gay, Dick ; you know that.*

'Gaily doesn't mean decked in gay

' I didn't suppose gaily was gaily dressed.
Mighty me, what a scholar you've grown!'

'Lots of things have happened to you
this spring, I see.'

'What have you seen?'

' 0, nothing ; I've heard, I mean I'

' What have you heard ?'

' The name of a pretty man, with brass
studs and a copper ring and a tin watch-
chain, a little mixed up with your own.
That's all.'

'That's a very unkind picture of Mr.
Shinar, for that's who you mean. The
studs are gold, as you know, and it's
a real silver chain ; the ring I can't con-
scientiously defend, and he only wore it


* He might have worn it a hundred
times without showing it half so much/

'Well, he's nothing to me,' she serenely

' Not any more than I am ?'

' Now, Mr. Dewy,' said Fancy severely,
* certainly he isn't any more to me than
you are !'

' Not so much?'

She looked aside to consider the precise
compass of that question. 'That I can't ex-
actly answer,' she replied with soft archness.

As they were going rather slowly, ano-
ther spring-cart, containing a farmer, farm-
er's wife, and farmer's man, jogged past
them; and the farmers wife and farmer's
man eyed the couple very curiously. The
farmer never looked up from the horse's tail.

'Why can't you exactly answer?' said
Dick, quickening Smart a little, and jogging
on just behind the farmer and farmer's wife
and man.

As no answer came, and as their eyes had
nothing else to do, they both contemplated
the picture presented in front, and noticed


how the farmer's wife sat flattened between
the two men. who bulged over each end of
the seat to give her room, till they almost
sat upon their respective wheels ; and they
looked too at the farmer's wife's silk mantle,
inflating itself between her shoulders like a
balloon, and sinking flat again, at each jog
of the horse. The farmer's wife, feelino:
their eyes sticking into her back, looked
over her shoulder. Dick dropped ten yards
farther behind.

' Fancy, why can't you answer ?' he re-

' Because how much you are to me de-
pends upon how much I am to you,' said
she in low tones.

'Everything,' said Dick, putting his
hand towards hers, and casting emphatic
eyes upon the upper curve of her cheek.

' Now, Richard Dewy, no touching me. I
didn't say in what way your thinking of me
affected the question — perhaps inversely,
don't you see? No touching, sir! Look;
goodness me, don't, Dick !'

The cause of her sudden start was the


unpleasant appearance over Dick's right
shoulder of an empty timber-wagon and
four journeymen-carpenters reclining in lazy
postures inside it, their eyes directed up-
wards at various obHque angles into the
surrounding world, the chief object of their
existence being apparently to criticise to the
very backbone and marrow every animate
object that came within the compass of their
vision. This difficulty of Dick's was over-
come by trotting on till the wagon and car-
penters were beginning to look reduced in
size and rather misty, by reason of a film of
dust that accompanied their wagon-wheels,
and rose around their heads like a fog.

' Say you love me. Fancy.'

'No, Dick, certainly not; 'tisn't time
to do that yet.'

'Why, Fancy?

' " Miss Day" is better at present— don t
mind my saying so; and I ought not to
have called you Dick.'

' Nonsense ! when you know that I would
do anything on earth for your love. Why,
you make any one think that loving is a


thing that can be done and undone, and
put on and put off at a mere whim.'

' No, no, I don't,^ she said gently ; * but
there are things which tell me I ought not
to give way to much thinking about you,
even if — '

' But you want to, don't you ? Yes, say
you do; it is best to be truthful, Fancy.
Whatever they may say about a woman's
right to conceal where her love lies, and
pretend it doesn't exist, and things Hke
that, it is not best ; I do know it, Fancy.
And an honest woman in that, as well as in
all her daily concerns, shines most brightly,
and is thought most of in the long-run.'

^Well then, perhaps, Dick, I do love
you a little,' she whispered tenderly ; ' but
I wish you wouldn't say any more now.'

*I won't say any more now, then, if
you don't like it. But you do love me a
little, don't you?'

*Now you ought not to want me to
keep saying things twice; I can't say any
more now, and you must be content with
what you have.'


* I may at any rate call you Fancy ?
There's no harm in thai.'

* Yes, you may.'

' And you'll not call me Mr. Dewy any
more ?'

* Very well.'



Dick's spirits having risen in the course
of these admissions of his sweetheart, he
now touched Smart with the whip ; and
on Smart's neck, not far behind his ears.
Smart, who had been lost in thought for
some time, never dreaming that Dick could
reach so far with a whip which, on tVis
particular journey, had never been ex-
tended farther than his flank, tossed his
head, and scampered along with exceeding
briskness, ^vhich was very pleasant to the
young couple behind him till, turning a bend
in the road, they came instantly upon the


farmer, farmer's man, and farmer's wife
with the flapping mantle, all jogging on just
the same as ever.

' Bother those people ! Here we are
upon them again.'

' Well, of course. They have as much
right to the road as we.'

' Yes, but it is provoking to be over-
looked so. I like a road all to myself.
Look what a lumbering affair theirs is !'
The wheels of the farmer's cart, just at
that moment, jogged into a depression run-
'ning across the road, giving the cart a twist,
whereupon all three nodded to the left, and
on coming out of it all three nodded to the
right, and went on jerking their backs in
and out as usual. ' We'll pass them when
the road gets wider.'

When an opportunity seemed to offer
itself for carrying this intention into effect,
they heard light flying wheels behind, and
on quartering, there whizzed along past
them a brand-new gig, so brightly polished
that the spokes of the wheels sent forth a
continual quivering light at one point in


their circle, and all the panels glared like
mirrors in Dick and Fancy's eyes. The
driver, and owner as it appeared, was really
a handsome man ; his companion was
Shinar. Both turned round as they passed
Dick and Fancy, and stared steadily in her
face till they were obliged to attend to the
operation of passing the farmer. Dick
glanced for an instant at Fancy while she
was undergoing their scrutiny ; then re-
turned to his driving with rather a sad

' Why are you so silent?' she said, after
a while, mth real concern.

' Nothing.'

* Yes, it is, Dick. I couldn't help those
people passing.'

' 1 know that.'

'You look offended with me. "What
have I done?'

* I can't tell without offending you.'

* Better out.'

'Well,' said Dick, who seemed longing
to tell, even at the risk of offending her,
* I was thinking how different you in love


are from me in love. Whilst those men
were staring, you dismissed me from your
thoughts altogether, and — '

'You can't offend me farther now;
tell all;

' And showed upon your face a flattered
consciousness of being attractive to them.'

* Don't be silly, Dick ! You know very
well I didn't.'

Dick shook his head sceptically, and

* Dick, I always believe flattery if pos-
sible — and it was possible then. Now there's
an open confession of weakness. But I
showed no consciousness of it.'

Dick, perceiving by her look that she
would adhere to her statement, charitably
forbore saying anything that could make
her prevaricate. The sight of Shinar, too,
had recalled another branch of the subject
to his mind; that which had been his
greatest trouble till her company and
words had obscured its probability.

' By the way, Fancy, do you know why
our choir is to be dismissed ?'


'No: except that it is Mr. Maybold's
wish for me to play the organ.'

'Do you know how it came to be his

'That I don V

'Mr. Shinar, being churchwarden, has
persuaded the vicar; who, however, was
willing enough before. Shinar, I know, is
crazy to see you playing every Sunday; I
suppose he'll turn over your music, for the
organ will be close to his pew. But — 1
know you have never encouraged him?'

' Never once !' said Fancy emphatically,
and with eyes full of earnest truth. ' I don't
like him indeed, and I never heard of his
doing this before I I have always felt that
I should like to play in a church, but I
never wished to turn you and your choir
out; and I never even said that I could
play till I was asked. You don't think for
a moment that I did, surely, do you ?'

' I know you didn't. Fancy.'

' Or that I care the least morsel of a bit
for him?'

' I know you don't.'


The distance between Budmouth and
Mellstock was eighteen miles, and there
being a good inn six miles out of Bud-
mouth, Dick's custom in driving thither
was to divide his journey into three stages
by resting at this inn, going and coming,
and not troubling the Budmouth stables
at all, whenever his visit to the town was
a mere call and deposit, as to-day.

Fancy was ushered into a little tea-
room, and Dick went to the stables to see
to the feeding of Smart. In face of the
significant twitches of feature that were
visible in the ostler and odd men idling
around, Dick endeavoured to look uncon-
scious of the fact that there was any senti-
ment between him and Fancy beyond a
tranter's desire to carry a passenger home.
He presently entered the inn and opened
the door of Fancy's room.

* Dick, do you know, it has struck me
that it is rather awkward, my being here
alone with you like this. I don't think
you had better come in with me.'

* That's rather unpleasant.'


'Yes, it is, and I wanted you to have
some tea as well as myself too, because you
must be tired/

' Well, let me have some with you, thea
I was denied once before, if you recollect.

'Yes, yes, never mind! And it seems
unfriendly of me now, but I don't know
what to do.'

' It shall be as you say, then,' said Dick,
beginning to retreat with a dissatisfied
wrinkling of face, and giving a farewell
glance at the cosy tea-tray.

' But you don't see how it is, Dick, when
you speak like that,' she said, with more
earnestness than she had ever shown be-
fore. * You do know, that even if I care
very much for you, I must remember that I
have a difficult position to maintain. The
vicar would not like me, as his school-
mistress, to indulge in iite-a-tetes anywhere
with anybody.'

'But I am not any body!' exclaimed

' No, no, I mean with a young man ;' and


she added softly, 'unless I were really
engaged to be married to him.'

'Is that all? then, dearest, dearest, why
we'll be engaged at once, to be sure we
will, and down I sit! There it is, as easy
as a glove !'

' Ah I but suppose I won't I And, good-
ness me, what have I done!' she faltered,
getting very red and confused. ' Positively,
it seems as if I meant you to say that!'

' Let's do it ! I mean get engaged,' said
Dick. ' Now, Fancy, will you be my wife ?*

' Do you know, Dick, it was rather un-
kind of you to say what you did coming
along the road,' she remarked, as if she had
not heard the latter part of his speech;
though an acute observer might have
noticed about her breast, as the word 'wife'
fell from Dick's lips, soft motions consisting
of a silent escape of pants, with very short
rests between each.

'What did I say?

' About my trying to look attractive to
those men in the gig.'

' You couldn't help looking so, whether


you tried or no. And, Fancy, you do care
for me?^


*"^'ery much?*


* And you'll be my own wife?'

Her heart grew boisterous, adding to
And withdrawing from the cheek varying
tones of red to match each varying thought.
Dick looked expectantly at the ripe tint of
her delicate mouth, waiting for what was
coming forth.

' Yes — if father will let me.*

Dick drew himself close to her, com-
pressing his lips and pouting them out, as if
he were about to whistle the softest melody

' no !' said Fancy solemnly ; and tliC
modest Dick drew back a little.

* Dick, Dick, kiss me, and let me go
instantly! here's somebody coming!' she ex-

Half an hour afterwards Dick emerged
from the inn, and if Fancy's lips hac? been


real cherries, Dick^s would have appeared
deeply stained. The landlord was standing
in the yard.

*Heu-heu! hay-hay, Master Dewy ! Ho-
ho !' he laughed, letting the laugh slip out
gently and by degrees, that it might make
little noise in its exit, and smiting Dick
under the fifth rib at the same time. ' This
will never do, upon my life. Master Dewy !
calling for tay for a passenger, and then
going in and sitting down and having some

*But surely 3"ou know?* said Dick, with
great apparent surprise. 'Yes, yes! Ha-ha!'
smiting the landlord under the ribs in

*Why, what? Yes, yes; ha-ha!*
* You know, yes ; ha-ha, of course !*
^ Yes, of course ! But — that is — I don*t.*
' Why about — between that young lady
and me?' nodding to the window of the
room that Fancy occupied.

'No; not I!* bringing his eyes into
mathematical circles.
' And you don't !*


^ Not a word, I'll take my oath !'

* But you laughed, when I laughed.*

* Ay, that was me sympathy ; so did you
when I laughed !*

^Really, you don't know? Goodness —
not knowing that!*

*ril take my oath I don't!*

^ yes,* said Dick, with frigid rhetoric
of pitying astonishment, ^ we*re engaged to
be married, you see, and I naturally look
after her.*

^ Of course, of course ! I didn't know
that, and I hope ye'll excuse any little frec>
dom of mine. But it is a very odd thing;
I was talking to your father very intimate
about family matters, only last Friday in
the world, and who should come in but
keeper Day, and we all then fell a-talking o*
family matters ; but neither one o' them said
a mortal word about it ; known me too so
many years, and I at your father*s own
wedding. *Tisn*t what I should have ex-
pected from a old naibour.'

' Well, to tell the truth, we hadn't told


father of the engagement at that time ; in
fact, *twasn't settled.'

' Ah ! the business was done Sunday.
Yes, yes, Sunday's the courting day. Heu-

'No, *twasn't done Sunday in particu-

^ After school-hours this week? Well, a
very good time, a very proper good time.*

* no, *twasn't done then.'

* Coming along the road to-day then, I

' Not at all; I wouldn't think of getting
engaged in a cart.'

'Dammy — might as well have said at
once, the vohen be bio wed I Anyhow, 'tis a
fine day, and I hope next time youll come
as one.'

Fancy was duly brought out and as-
sisted into the vehicle, and the newly-
affianced youth and maiden passed over the
bridge, and vanished in the direction of




It was a morning of the latter sum-
mer-time; a morning of lingering dews,
when the grass is never dry in the shade
Fuchsias and dahlias were laden till eleven
D'clock with small drops and dashes of
water, changing the colour of their sparkle
at every movement of the air, or hanging
on tmgs like small silver fruit. The threads
of garden spiders appeared thick and pol-
ished. In the dry and sunny places, dozens
of long-legged crane-flies whizzed off the
grass at every step the passer took.

Fancy Day and her friend SiLsan Dewy
were in such a spot as this, pulling down a
bough laden with early apples. Three
months had elapsed since Dick and Fancy
had journeyed together from Budmouth,
and the course of their love had run on
vigorously during the whole time. There
had been just enough difficulty attending


its development, and just enough JBnesse
required in keeping it private, to lend the
passion an ever-increasing freshness on
Fancy's part, whilst, whether from these
accessories or not, Dick's heart had been at
all times as fond as could be desired. But
there was a cloud on Fancy's horizon now.

' She is so well off — better than any of
us,' Susan De^vy was saying. ^ Her father
farms five hundred acres, and she might
marry a doctor or curate or anything of that
kind if she contrived a little.'

* I don t think Dick ought to have gone
to that gipsy-party at all when he knew I
couldn't go,' replied Fancy uneasily.

' He didn't know that you would not be
there till it was too late to decline the in-
vitation,* said Susan.

'And what was she like? Tell me.'

*Well, she was rather pretty, I must

' Tell straight on about her, can't you !
Come, do, Susan. How many times did you
s^y he danced with her?'



'Twice, I think you said?'

' Indeed I'm sure I didn't/

' Well, and he wanted to again, I expect.'

' No; I don't think he did. She wanted
to dance with him again badly enough, I
know. Everybody does with Dick, because
he's so handsome and such a clever courter.'

' 0, 1 wish ! — How did you say she wore
her hair?'

'In long curls, — and her hair is light,
and it curls without being put in paper:
that's how it is she's so attractive.'

' She's trying to get him away ! yes, yes,
she is ! And through keeping this miserable
school I mustn't wear my hair in curls ! But
I will; I don't care if I leave the school and
go home, I will wear my curls ! Look, Su-
san, do : is her hair as soft and long as this ?'
Fancy pulled from its coil under her hat a
twine of her own hair, and stretched it down
her shoulder to show its length, eagerly
looking at Susan to catch her opinion from
her eyes,

' It is about the same length as that, I
think/ said Miss Dewy.


Fancy paused hopelessly. ' I wish mine
was lighter, like hers !' she contmued mourn-
fully. ' But hers isn't so soft, is it? Tell
me, now.*

* I don't know.*

Fancy abstractedly extended her vision
to survey a yellow butterfly and a red-and-
black butterfly, that were flitting along in
company, and then became aware that Dick
was advancing up the garden.

' Susan, here's Dick coming ; I suppose
that's because we've been talking about him.'

' Well, then, I shall go indoors now — you
won't want me;' and Susan turned practically
and walked off.

Enter the single-minded Dick, whose
only fault at the gipsying, or picnic, had
been that of loving Fancy too exclusively,
and depriving himself of the innocent plea-
sure the gathering might have afforded him,
by sighing regretfully at her absence, — who
had danced with the rival in sheer despair
of ever being able to get through that stale,
flat, and unprofitable afternoon in any other
way ; but this she would not believe

A confessioa: 221

Fancy had settled her plan of emotion.
To reproach Dick ? no, no. ' I am in
great trouble,' said she, taking:; what was
intended to be a hopelessly melancholy sur-
vey of a few small apples lying under the
tree ; yet ft critical ear might have noticed in
her voice a tentative tone as to the effect of
the words upon Dick when she uttered them.

* What are you in trouble about ? Tell
me of it,' said Dick earnestly. * Darling, I
will share it with you and help you.'

* No, no : you can't ! Nobody can!'

^ Why not? You don^t deserve it, what-
ever it is. Tell me, dear.'

^ 0, it isn't what you think ! It is dread-
ful : my own sin I'

^ Sin, Fancy ! as if you could sin ! I know
it can't be.'

*'Tis, 'tis!' said the young lady, in a
pretty little frenzy of sorrow. ^ I have done
wrong, and I don't like to tell it ! Nobody
will forgive me, nobody ! and you above all
will not ! . . . . I have allowed myself to —

*What, — not flirt!' he said, controlling


his emotion as it were by a sudden pressure
inward from his surface. ^And you said
only the day before yesterday that you
hadn't flirted in your life !'

^Yes, I did; and that was a wicked
story ! I have let another love me, and — '

' Good G— ! Well, I'll forgive you,—
yes, if you couldn't help it, — yes, I will!'
said the now miserable Dick. 'Did you
encourage him?'

' 0, 0, 0,-1 don't know,— yes— no. 0,
I think so!'

' Who was it?'

A pause.

'Tell me!'

'Mr. Shinar.'

After a silence that was only disturbed
by the fall of an apple, a long-checked sigh
from Dick, and a sob from Fancy, he said
with real austerity,

' Tell it all; — every word!'

' He looked at me, and I looked at him,
and he said, "Will you let me show you
how to catch bullfinches down here by the
stream?'' And I — wanted to know very


much — I did so long to have a bullfinch I
I couldn't help that!— and I said, ''Yes!"
and then he said, '' Come here." And I
went with him down to the lovely river,
and then he said to me, '' Look and see
how I do it, and then you'll know : I put
this birdlime round this twig, and then I
go here,'' he said, ''and hide away under
a bush; and presently clever Mister Bird
comes and perches upon the twig, and
flaps his wings, and you've got him before
you can say Jack" — something; 0, 0, 0,
I forget what !'

* Jack Sprat,' mournfully suggested Dick
through the cloud of his misery.

' No, not Jack Sprat,' she sobbed.

' Then 'twas Jack Robinson !' he said,
with the emphasis of a man who had resolved
to discover every iota of the truth, or die.

' Yes, that was it ! And then I put my
hand upon the rail of the bridge to get
across, and— That's all.'

' Well, that isn't much, either,' said Dick

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Online LibraryThomas HardyUnder the greenwood tree or The mellstock quire : a rural painting of the dutch school → online text (page 9 of 14)