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Chapter 15

  • At first Miss Newson's budding beauty was not regarded with much interest b_nybody in Casterbridge. Donald Farfrae's gaze, it is true, was now attracte_y the Mayor's so-called step-daughter, but he was only one. The truth is tha_he was but a poor illustrative instance of the prophet Baruch's sl_efinition: "The virgin that loveth to go gay."
  • When she walked abroad she seemed to be occupied with an inner chamber o_deas, and to have slight need for visible objects. She formed curiou_esolves on checking gay fancies in the matter of clothes, because it wa_nconsistent with her past life to blossom gaudily the moment she had becom_ossessed of money. But nothing is more insidious than the evolution of wishe_rom mere fancies, and of wants from mere wishes. Henchard gave Elizabeth-Jan_ box of delicately-tinted gloves one spring day. She wanted to wear them t_how her appreciation of his kindness, but she had no bonnet that woul_armonize. As an artistic indulgence she thought she would have such a bonnet.
  • When she had a bonnet that would go with the gloves she had no dress tha_ould go with the bonnet. It was now absolutely necessary to finish; sh_rdered the requisite article, and found that she had no sunshade to go wit_he dress. In for a penny in for a pound; she bought the sunshade, and th_hole structure was at last complete.
  • Everybody was attracted, and some said that her bygone simplicity was the ar_hat conceals art, the "delicate imposition" of Rochefoucauld; she ha_roduced an effect, a contrast, and it had been done on purpose. As a matte_f fact this was not true, but it had its result; for as soon as Casterbridg_hought her artful it thought her worth notice. "It is the first time in m_ife that I have been so much admired," she said to herself; "though perhap_t is by those whose admiration is not worth having."
  • But Donald Farfrae admired her, too; and altogether the time was an excitin_ne; sex had never before asserted itself in her so strongly, for in forme_ays she had perhaps been too impersonally human to be distinctively feminine.
  • After an unprecedented success one day she came indoors, went upstairs, an_eant upon her bed face downwards quite forgetting the possible creasing an_amage. "Good Heaven," she whispered, "can it be? Here am I setting up as th_own beauty!"
  • When she had thought it over, her usual fear of exaggerating appearance_ngendered a deep sadness. "There is something wrong in all this," she mused.
  • "If they only knew what an unfinished girl I am—that I can't talk Italian, o_se globes, or show any of the accomplishments they learn at boarding schools, how they would despise me! Better sell all this finery and buy myself grammar- books and dictionaries and a history of all the philosophies!"
  • She looked from the window and saw Henchard and Farfrae in the hay-yar_alking, with that impetuous cordiality on the Mayor's part, and genia_odesty on the younger man's, that was now so generally observable in thei_ntercourse. Friendship between man and man; what a rugged strength there wa_n it, as evinced by these two. And yet the seed that was to lift th_oundation of this friendship was at that moment taking root in a chink of it_tructure.
  • It was about six o'clock; the men were dropping off homeward one by one. Th_ast to leave was a round-shouldered, blinking young man of nineteen o_wenty, whose mouth fell ajar on the slightest provocation, seemingly becaus_here was no chin to support it. Henchard called aloud to him as he went ou_f the gate, "Here—Abel Whittle!"
  • Whittle turned, and ran back a few steps. "Yes, sir," he said, in breathles_eprecation, as if he knew what was coming next.
  • "Once more—be in time to-morrow morning. You see what's to be done, and yo_ear what I say, and you know I'm not going to be trifled with any longer."
  • "Yes, sir." Then Abel Whittle left, and Henchard and Farfrae; and Elizabet_aw no more of them.
  • Now there was good reason for this command on Henchard's part. Poor Abel, a_e was called, had an inveterate habit of over-sleeping himself and comin_ate to his work. His anxious will was to be among the earliest; but if hi_omrades omitted to pull the string that he always tied round his great to_nd left hanging out the window for that purpose, his will was as wind. He di_ot arrive in time.
  • As he was often second hand at the hay-weighing, or at the crane which lifte_he sacks, or was one of those who had to accompany the waggons into th_ountry to fetch away stacks that had been purchased, this affliction o_bel's was productive of much inconvenience. For two mornings in the presen_eek he had kept the others waiting nearly an hour; hence Henchard's threat.
  • It now remained to be seen what would happen to-morrow.
  • Six o'clock struck, and there was no Whittle. At half-past six Henchar_ntered the yard; the waggon was horsed that Abel was to accompany; and th_ther man had been waiting twenty minutes. Then Henchard swore, and Whittl_oming up breathless at that instant, the corn-factor turned on him, an_eclared with an oath that this was the last time; that if he were behind onc_ore, by God, he would come and drag him out o' bed.
  • "There is sommit wrong in my make, your worshipful!" said Abel, "especially i_he inside, whereas my poor dumb brain gets as dead as a clot afore I've sai_y few scrags of prayers. Yes—it came on as a stripling, just afore I'd go_an's wages, whereas I never enjoy my bed at all, for no sooner do I lie dow_han I be asleep, and afore I be awake I be up. I've fretted my gizzard gree_bout it, maister, but what can I do? Now last night, afore I went to bed, _nly had a scantling o' cheese and—"
  • "I don't want to hear it!" roared Henchard. "To-morrow the waggons must star_t four, and if you're not here, stand clear. I'll mortify thy flesh fo_hee!"
  • "But let me clear up my points, your worshipful——"
  • Henchard turned away.
  • "He asked me and he questioned me, and then 'a wouldn't hear my points!" sai_bel, to the yard in general. "Now, I shall twitch like a moment-hand al_ight to-night for fear o' him!"
  • The journey to be taken by the waggons next day was a long one into Blackmoo_ale, and at four o'clock lanterns were moving about the yard. But Abel wa_issing. Before either of the other men could run to Abel's and warn hi_enchard appeared in the garden doorway. "Where's Abel Whittle? Not come afte_ll I've said? Now I'll carry out my word, by my blessed fathers—nothing els_ill do him any good! I'm going up that way."
  • Henchard went off, entered Abel's house, a little cottage in Back Street, th_oor of which was never locked because the inmates had nothing to lose.
  • Reaching Whittle's bedside the corn-factor shouted a bass note so vigorousl_hat Abel started up instantly, and beholding Henchard standing over him, wa_alvanized into spasmodic movements which had not much relation to getting o_is clothes.
  • "Out of bed, sir, and off to the granary, or you leave my employ to-day! 'Ti_o teach ye a lesson. March on; never mind your breeches!"
  • The unhappy Whittle threw on his sleeve waistcoat, and managed to get into hi_oots at the bottom of the stairs, while Henchard thrust his hat over hi_ead. Whittle then trotted on down Back Street, Henchard walking sternl_ehind.
  • Just at this time Farfrae, who had been to Henchard's house to look for him, came out of the back gate, and saw something white fluttering in the mornin_loom, which he soon perceived to be part of Abel's shirt that showed belo_is waistcoat.
  • "For maircy's sake, what object's this?" said Farfrae, following Abel into th_ard, Henchard being some way in the rear by this time.
  • "Ye see, Mr. Farfrae," gibbered Abel with a resigned smile of terror, "he sai_e'd mortify my flesh if so be I didn't get up sooner, and now he's a-doin_n't! Ye see it can't be helped, Mr. Farfrae; things do happen quee_ometimes! Yes—I'll go to Blackmoor Vale half naked as I be, since he d_ommand; but I shall kill myself afterwards; I can't outlive the disgrace, fo_he women-folk will be looking out of their winders at my mortification al_he way along, and laughing me to scorn as a man 'ithout breeches! You kno_ow I feel such things, Maister Farfrae, and how forlorn thoughts get hol_pon me. Yes—I shall do myself harm—I feel it coming on!"
  • "Get back home, and slip on your breeches, and come to wark like a man! If y_o not, you'll ha'e your death standing there!"
  • "I'm afeard I mustn't! Mr. Henchard said——"
  • "I don't care what Mr. Henchard said, nor anybody else! 'Tis simpl_oolishness to do this. Go and dress yourself instantly Whittle."
  • "Hullo, hullo!" said Henchard, coming up behind. "Who's sending him back?"
  • All the men looked towards Farfrae.
  • "I am," said Donald. "I say this joke has been carried far enough."
  • "And I say it hasn't! Get up in the waggon, Whittle."
  • "Not if I am manager," said Farfrae. "He either goes home, or I march out o_his yard for good."
  • Henchard looked at him with a face stern and red. But he paused for a moment, and their eyes met. Donald went up to him, for he saw in Henchard's look tha_e began to regret this.
  • "Come," said Donald quietly, "a man o' your position should ken better, sir!
  • It is tyrannical and no worthy of you."
  • "'Tis not tyrannical!" murmured Henchard, like a sullen boy. "It is to mak_im remember!" He presently added, in a tone of one bitterly hurt: "Why di_ou speak to me before them like that, Farfrae? You might have stopped till w_ere alone. Ah—I know why! I've told ye the secret o' my life—fool that I wa_o do't—and you take advantage of me!"
  • "I had forgot it," said Farfrae simply.
  • Henchard looked on the ground, said nothing more, and turned away. During th_ay Farfrae learnt from the men that Henchard had kept Abel's old mother i_oals and snuff all the previous winter, which made him less antagonistic t_he corn-factor. But Henchard continued moody and silent, and when one of th_en inquired of him if some oats should be hoisted to an upper floor or not, he said shortly, "Ask Mr. Farfrae. He's master here!"
  • Morally he was; there could be no doubt of it. Henchard, who had hitherto bee_he most admired man in his circle, was the most admired no longer. One da_he daughters of a deceased farmer in Durnover wanted an opinion of the valu_f their haystack, and sent a messenger to ask Mr. Farfrae to oblige them wit_ne. The messenger, who was a child, met in the yard not Farfrae, bu_enchard.
  • "Very well," he said. "I'll come."
  • "But please will Mr. Farfrae come?" said the child.
  • "I am going that way… .Why Mr. Farfrae?" said Henchard, with the fixed look o_hought. "Why do people always want Mr. Farfrae?"
  • "I suppose because they like him so—that's what they say."
  • "Oh—I see—that's what they say—hey? They like him because he's cleverer tha_r. Henchard, and because he knows more; and, in short, Mr. Henchard can'_old a candle to him—hey?"
  • "Yes—that's just it, sir—some of it."
  • "Oh, there's more? Of course there's more! What besides? Come, here's _ixpence for a fairing."
  • "'And he's better tempered, and Henchard's a fool to him,' they say. And whe_ome of the women were a-walking home they said, 'He's a diment—he's a chap o'
  • wax—he's the best—he's the horse for my money,' says they. And they said,
  • 'He's the most understanding man o' them two by long chalks. I wish he was th_aster instead of Henchard,' they said."
  • "They'll talk any nonsense," Henchard replied with covered gloom. "Well, yo_an go now. And I am coming to value the hay, d'ye hear?—I." The boy departed, and Henchard murmured, "Wish he were master here, do they?"
  • He went towards Durnover. On his way he overtook Farfrae. They walked o_ogether, Henchard looking mostly on the ground.
  • "You're no yoursel' the day?" Donald inquired.
  • "Yes, I am very well," said Henchard.
  • "But ye are a bit down—surely ye are down? Why, there's nothing to be angr_bout! 'Tis splendid stuff that we've got from Blackmoor Vale. By the by, th_eople in Durnover want their hay valued."
  • "Yes. I am going there."
  • "I'll go with ye."
  • As Henchard did not reply Donald practised a piece of music sotto voce, till, getting near the bereaved people's door, he stopped himself with—
  • "Ah, as their father is dead I won't go on with such as that. How could _orget?"
  • "Do you care so very much about hurting folks' feelings?" observed Henchar_ith a half sneer. "You do, I know—especially mine!"
  • "I am sorry if I have hurt yours, sir," replied Donald, standing still, with _econd expression of the same sentiment in the regretfulness of his face. "Wh_hould you say it—think it?"
  • The cloud lifted from Henchard's brow, and as Donald finished the corn- merchant turned to him, regarding his breast rather than his face.
  • "I have been hearing things that vexed me," he said. "'Twas that made me shor_n my manner—made me overlook what you really are. Now, I don't want to go i_ere about this hay—Farfrae, you can do it better than I. They sent for 'ee, too. I have to attend a meeting of the Town Council at eleven, and 'ti_rawing on for't."
  • They parted thus in renewed friendship, Donald forbearing to ask Henchard fo_eanings that were not very plain to him. On Henchard's part there was no_gain repose; and yet, whenever he thought of Farfrae, it was with a di_read; and he often regretted that he had told the young man his whole heart, and confided to him the secrets of his life.