On this account Henchard's manner towards Farfrae insensibly became mor_eserved. He was courteous—too courteous—and Farfrae was quite surprised a_he good breeding which now for the first time showed itself among th_ualities of a man he had hitherto thought undisciplined, if warm and sincere.
The corn-factor seldom or never again put his arm upon the young man'_houlder so as to nearly weigh him down with the pressure of mechanize_riendship. He left off coming to Donald's lodgings and shouting into th_assage. "Hoy, Farfrae, boy, come and have some dinner with us! Don't sit her_n solitary confinement!" But in the daily routine of their business there wa_ittle change.
Thus their lives rolled on till a day of public rejoicing was suggested to th_ountry at large in celebration of a national event that had recently take_lace.
For some time Casterbridge, by nature slow, made no response. Then one da_onald Farfrae broached the subject to Henchard by asking if he would have an_bjection to lend some rick-cloths to himself and a few others, wh_ontemplated getting up an entertainment of some sort on the day named, an_equired a shelter for the same, to which they might charge admission at th_ate of so much a head.
"Have as many cloths as you like," Henchard replied.
When his manager had gone about the business Henchard was fired wit_mulation. It certainly had been very remiss of him, as Mayor, he thought, t_all no meeting ere this, to discuss what should be done on this holiday. Bu_arfrae had been so cursed quick in his movements as to give oldfashione_eople in authority no chance of the initiative. However, it was not too late;
and on second thoughts he determined to take upon his own shoulders th_esponsibility of organizing some amusements, if the other Councilmen woul_eave the matter in his hands. To this they quite readily agreed, the majorit_eing fine old crusted characters who had a decided taste for living withou_orry.
So Henchard set about his preparations for a really brilliant thing—such a_hould be worthy of the venerable town. As for Farfrae's little affair,
Henchard nearly forgot it; except once now and then when, on it coming int_is mind, he said to himself, "Charge admission at so much a head—just like _cotchman!—who is going to pay anything a head?" The diversions which th_ayor intended to provide were to be entirely free.
He had grown so dependent upon Donald that he could scarcely resist callin_im in to consult. But by sheer self-coercion he refrained. No, he thought,
Farfrae would be suggesting such improvements in his damned luminous way tha_n spite of himself he, Henchard, would sink to the position of second fiddle,
and only scrape harmonies to his manager's talents.
Everybody applauded the Mayor's proposed entertainment, especially when i_ecame known that he meant to pay for it all himself.
Close to the town was an elevated green spot surrounded by an ancient squar_arthwork—earthworks square and not square, were as common as blackberrie_ereabout—a spot whereon the Casterbridge people usually held any kind o_erry-making, meeting, or sheep-fair that required more space than the street_ould afford. On one side it sloped to the river Froom, and from any point _iew was obtained of the country round for many miles. This pleasant uplan_as to be the scene of Henchard's exploit.
He advertised about the town, in long posters of a pink colour, that games o_ll sorts would take place here; and set to work a little battalion of me_nder his own eye. They erected greasy-poles for climbing, with smoked ham_nd local cheeses at the top. They placed hurdles in rows for jumping over;
across the river they laid a slippery pole, with a live pig of th_eighbourhood tied at the other end, to become the property of the man wh_ould walk over and get it. There were also provided wheelbarrows for racing,
donkeys for the same, a stage for boxing, wrestling, and drawing bloo_enerally; sacks for jumping in. Moreover, not forgetting his principles,
Henchard provided a mammoth tea, of which everybody who lived in the boroug_as invited to partake without payment. The tables were laid parallel with th_nner slope of the rampart, and awnings were stretched overhead.
Passing to and fro the Mayor beheld the unattractive exterior of Farfrae'_rection in the West Walk, rick-cloths of different sizes and colours bein_ung up to the arching trees without any regard to appearance. He was easy i_is mind now, for his own preparations far transcended these.
The morning came. The sky, which had been remarkably clear down to within _ay or two, was overcast, and the weather threatening, the wind having a_nmistakable hint of water in it. Henchard wished he had not been quite s_ure about the continuance of a fair season. But it was too late to modify o_ostpone, and the proceedings went on. At twelve o'clock the rain began t_all, small and steady, commencing and increasing so insensibly that it wa_ifficult to state exactly when dry weather ended or wet established itself.
In an hour the slight moisture resolved itself into a monotonous smiting o_arth by heaven, in torrents to which no end could be prognosticated.
A number of people had heroically gathered in the field but by three o'cloc_enchard discerned that his project was doomed to end in failure. The hams a_he top of the poles dripped watered smoke in the form of a brown liquor, th_ig shivered in the wind, the grain of the deal tables showed through th_ticking tablecloths, for the awning allowed the rain to drift under at it_ill, and to enclose the sides at this hour seemed a useless undertaking. Th_andscape over the river disappeared; the wind played on the tent-cords i_eolian improvisations, and at length rose to such a pitch that the whol_rection slanted to the ground those who had taken shelter within it having t_rawl out on their hands and knees.
But towards six the storm abated, and a drier breeze shook the moisture fro_he grass bents. It seemed possible to carry out the programme after all. Th_wning was set up again; the band was called out from its shelter, and ordere_o begin, and where the tables had stood a place was cleared for dancing.
"But where are the folk?" said Henchard, after the lapse of half-an-hour,
during which time only two men and a woman had stood up to dance. "The shop_re all shut. Why don't they come?"
"They are at Farfrae's affair in the West Walk," answered a Councilman wh_tood in the field with the Mayor.
"A few, I suppose. But where are the body o 'em?"
"All out of doors are there."
"Then the more fools they!"
Henchard walked away moodily. One or two young fellows gallantly came to clim_he poles, to save the hams from being wasted; but as there were n_pectators, and the whole scene presented the most melancholy appearanc_enchard gave orders that the proceedings were to be suspended, and th_ntertainment closed, the food to be distributed among the poor people of th_own. In a short time nothing was left in the field but a few hurdles, th_ents, and the poles.
Henchard returned to his house, had tea with his wife and daughter, and the_alked out. It was now dusk. He soon saw that the tendency of all promenader_as towards a particular spot in the Walks, and eventually proceeded thithe_imself. The notes of a stringed band came from the enclosure that Farfrae ha_rected—the pavilion as he called it—and when the Mayor reached it h_erceived that a gigantic tent had been ingeniously constructed without pole_r ropes. The densest point of the avenue of sycamores had been selected,
where the boughs made a closely interlaced vault overhead; to these boughs th_anvas had been hung, and a barrel roof was the result. The end towards th_ind was enclosed, the other end was open. Henchard went round and saw th_nterior.
In form it was like the nave of a cathedral with one gable removed, but th_cene within was anything but devotional. A reel or fling of some sort was i_rogress; and the usually sedate Farfrae was in the midst of the other dancer_n the costume of a wild Highlander, flinging himself about and spinning t_he tune. For a moment Henchard could not help laughing. Then he perceived th_mmense admiration for the Scotchman that revealed itself in the women'_aces; and when this exhibition was over, and a new dance proposed, and Donal_ad disappeared for a time to return in his natural garments, he had a_nlimited choice of partners, every girl being in a coming-on dispositio_owards one who so thoroughly understood the poetry of motion as he.
All the town crowded to the Walk, such a delightful idea of a ballroom neve_aving occurred to the inhabitants before. Among the rest of the onlooker_ere Elizabeth and her mother—the former thoughtful yet much interested, he_yes beaming with a longing lingering light, as if Nature had been advised b_orreggio in their creation. The dancing progressed with unabated spirit, an_enchard walked and waited till his wife should be disposed to go home. He di_ot care to keep in the light, and when he went into the dark it was worse,
for there he heard remarks of a kind which were becoming too frequent:
"Mr. Henchard's rejoicings couldn't say good morning to this," said one. "_an must be a headstrong stunpoll to think folk would go up to that blea_lace to-day."
The other answered that people said it was not only in such things as thos_hat the Mayor was wanting. "Where would his business be if it were not fo_his young fellow? 'Twas verily Fortune sent him to Henchard. His account_ere like a bramblewood when Mr. Farfrae came. He used to reckon his sacks b_halk strokes all in a row like garden-palings, measure his ricks b_tretching with his arms, weigh his trusses by a lift, judge his hay by _haw, and settle the price with a curse. But now this accomplished young ma_oes it all by ciphering and mensuration. Then the wheat—that sometimes use_o taste so strong o' mice when made into bread that people could fairly tel_he breed—Farfrae has a plan for purifying, so that nobody would dream th_mallest four-legged beast had walked over it once. O yes, everybody is ful_f him, and the care Mr. Henchard has to keep him, to be sure!" concluded thi_entleman.
"But he won't do it for long, good-now," said the other.
"No!" said Henchard to himself behind the tree. "Or if he do, he'll b_oneycombed clean out of all the character and standing that he's built up i_hese eighteen year!"
He went back to the dancing pavilion. Farfrae was footing a quaint littl_ance with Elizabeth-Jane—an old country thing, the only one she knew, an_hough he considerately toned down his movements to suit her demurer gait, th_attern of the shining little nails in the soles of his boots became familia_o the eyes of every bystander. The tune had enticed her into it; being a tun_f a busy, vaulting, leaping sort—some low notes on the silver string of eac_iddle, then a skipping on the small, like running up and down ladders—"Mis_'Leod of Ayr" was its name, so Mr. Farfrae had said, and that it was ver_opular in his own country.
It was soon over, and the girl looked at Henchard for approval; but he did no_ive it. He seemed not to see her. "Look here, Farfrae," he said, like on_hose mind was elsewhere, "I'll go to Port-Bredy Great Market to-morro_yself. You can stay and put things right in your clothes-box, and recove_trength to your knees after your vagaries." He planted on Donald a_ntagonistic glare that had begun as a smile.
Some other townsmen came up, and Donald drew aside. "What's this, Henchard,"
said Alderman Tubber, applying his thumb to the corn-factor like a cheese-
taster. "An opposition randy to yours, eh? Jack's as good as his master, eh?
Cut ye out quite, hasn't he?"
"You see, Mr. Henchard," said the lawyer, another goodnatured friend, "wher_ou made the mistake was in going so far afield. You should have taken a lea_ut of his book, and have had your sports in a sheltered place like this. Bu_ou didn't think of it, you see; and he did, and that's where he's beat you."
"He'll be top-sawyer soon of you two, and carry all afore him," added jocula_r. Tubber.
"No," said Henchard gloomily. "He won't be that, because he's shortly going t_eave me." He looked towards Donald, who had come near. "Mr. Farfrae's time a_y manager is drawing to a close—isn't it, Farfrae?"
The young man, who could now read the lines and folds of Henchard's strongly-
traced face as if they were clear verbal inscriptions, quietly assented; an_hen people deplored the fact, and asked why it was, he simply replied tha_r. Henchard no longer required his help.
Henchard went home, apparently satisfied. But in the morning, when his jealou_emper had passed away, his heart sank within him at what he had said an_one. He was the more disturbed when he found that this time Farfrae wa_etermined to take him at his word.