Farfrae's words to his landlady had referred to the removal of his boxes an_ther effects from his late lodgings to Lucetta's house. The work was no_eavy, but it had been much hindered on account of the frequent pause_ecessitated by exclamations of surprise at the event, of which the good woma_ad been briefly informed by letter a few hours earlier.
At the last moment of leaving Port-Bredy, Farfrae, like John Gilpin, had bee_etained by important customers, whom, even in the exceptional circumstances, he was not the man to neglect. Moreover, there was a convenience in Lucett_rriving first at her house. Nobody there as yet knew what had happened; an_he was best in a position to break the news to the inmates, and giv_irections for her husband's accommodation. He had, therefore, sent on hi_wo-days' bride in a hired brougham, whilst he went across the country to _ertain group of wheat and barley ricks a few miles off, telling her the hou_t which he might be expected the same evening. This accounted for he_rotting out to meet him after their separation of four hours.
By a strenuous effort, after leaving Henchard she calmed herself in readines_o receive Donald at High-Place Hall when he came on from his lodgings. On_upreme fact empowered her to this, the sense that, come what would, she ha_ecured him. Half-an-hour after her arrival he walked in, and she met him wit_ relieved gladness, which a month's perilous absence could not hav_ntensified.
"There is one thing I have not done; and yet it is important," she sai_arnestly, when she had finished talking about the adventure with the bull.
"That is, broken the news of our marriage to my dear Elizabeth-Jane."
"Ah, and you have not?" he said thoughtfully. "I gave her a lift from the bar_omewards; but I did not tell her either; for I thought she might have hear_f it in the town, and was keeping back her congratulations from shyness, an_ll that."
"She can hardly have heard of it. But I'll find out; I'll go to her now. And, Donald, you don't mind her living on with me just the same as before? She i_o quiet and unassuming."
"O no, indeed I don't," Farfrae answered with, perhaps, a faint awkwardness.
"But I wonder if she would care to?"
"O yes!" said Lucetta eagerly. "I am sure she would like to. Besides, poo_hing, she has no other home."
Farfrae looked at her and saw that she did not suspect the secret of her mor_eserved friend. He liked her all the better for the blindness. "Arrange a_ou like with her by all means," he said. "It is I who have come to you_ouse, not you to mine."
"I'll run and speak to her," said Lucetta.
When she got upstairs to Elizabeth-Jane's room the latter had taken off he_ut-door things, and was resting over a book. Lucetta found in a moment tha_he had not yet learnt the news.
"I did not come down to you, Miss Templeman," she said simply. "I was comin_o ask if you had quite recovered from your fright, but I found you had _isitor. What are the bells ringing for, I wonder? And the band, too, i_laying. Somebody must be married; or else they are practising for Christmas."
Lucetta uttered a vague "Yes," and seating herself by the other young woma_ooked musingly at her. "What a lonely creature you are," she presently said;
"never knowing what's going on, or what people are talking about everywher_ith keen interest. You should get out, and gossip about as other women do, and then you wouldn't be obliged to ask me a question of that kind. Well, now, I have something to tell you."
Elizabeth-Jane said she was so glad, and made herself receptive.
"I must go rather a long way back," said Lucetta, the difficulty of explainin_erself satisfactorily to the pondering one beside her growing more apparen_t each syllable. "You remember that trying case of conscience I told you o_ome time ago—about the first lover and the second lover?" She let out i_erky phrases a leading word or two of the story she had told.
"O yes—I remember the story of YOUR FRIEND," said Elizabeth drily, regardin_he irises of Lucetta's eyes as though to catch their exact shade. "The tw_overs—the old one and the new: how she wanted to marry the second, but fel_he ought to marry the first; so that she neglected the better course t_ollow the evil, like the poet Ovid I've just been construing: 'Video melior_roboque, deteriora sequor.'"
"O no; she didn't follow evil exactly!" said Lucetta hastily.
"But you said that she—or as I may say you"—answered Elizabeth, dropping th_ask, "were in honour and conscience bound to marry the first?"
Lucetta's blush at being seen through came and went again before she replie_nxiously, "You will never breathe this, will you, Elizabeth-Jane?"
"Certainly not, if you say not.
"Then I will tell you that the case is more complicated—worse, in fact—than i_eemed in my story. I and the first man were thrown together in a strange way, and felt that we ought to be united, as the world had talked of us. He was _idower, as he supposed. He had not heard of his first wife for many years.
But the wife returned, and we parted. She is now dead, and the husband come_aying me addresses again, saying, 'Now we'll complete our purposes.' But, Elizabeth-Jane, all this amounts to a new courtship of me by him; I wa_bsolved from all vows by the return of the other woman."
"Have you not lately renewed your promise?" said the younger with quie_urmise. She had divined Man Number One.
"That was wrung from me by a threat."
"Yes, it was. But I think when any one gets coupled up with a man in the pas_o unfortunately as you have done she ought to become his wife if she can, even if she were not the sinning party."
Lucetta's countenance lost its sparkle. "He turned out to be a man I should b_fraid to marry," she pleaded. "Really afraid! And it was not till after m_enewed promise that I knew it."
"Then there is only one course left to honesty. You must remain a singl_oman."
"But think again! Do consider——"
"I am certain," interrupted her companion hardily. "I have guessed very wel_ho the man is. My father; and I say it is him or nobody for you."
Any suspicion of impropriety was to Elizabeth-Jane like a red rag to a bull.
Her craving for correctness of procedure was, indeed, almost vicious. Owing t_er early troubles with regard to her mother a semblance of irregularity ha_errors for her which those whose names are safeguarded from suspicion kno_othing of. "You ought to marry Mr. Henchard or nobody—certainly not anothe_an!" she went on with a quivering lip in whose movement two passions shared.
"I don't admit that!" said Lucetta passionately.
"Admit it or not, it is true!"
Lucetta covered her eyes with her right hand, as if she could plead no more, holding out her left to Elizabeth-Jane.
"Why, you HAVE married him!" cried the latter, jumping up with pleasure afte_ glance at Lucetta's fingers. "When did you do it? Why did you not tell me, instead of teasing me like this? How very honourable of you! He did treat m_other badly once, it seems, in a moment of intoxication. And it is true tha_e is stern sometimes. But you will rule him entirely, I am sure, with you_eauty and wealth and accomplishments. You are the woman he will adore, and w_hall all three be happy together now!"
"O, my Elizabeth-Jane!" cried Lucetta distressfully. "'Tis somebody else tha_ have married! I was so desperate—so afraid of being forced to anythin_lse—so afraid of revelations that would quench his love for me, that _esolved to do it offhand, come what might, and purchase a week of happines_t any cost!"
"You—have—married Mr. Farfrae!" cried Elizabeth-Jane, in Nathan tones
Lucetta bowed. She had recovered herself.
"The bells are ringing on that account," she said. "My husband is downstairs.
He will live here till a more suitable house is ready for us; and I have tol_im that I want you to stay with me just as before."
"Let me think of it alone," the girl quickly replied, corking up the turmoi_f her feeling with grand control.
"You shall. I am sure we shall be happy together."
Lucetta departed to join Donald below, a vague uneasiness floating over he_oy at seeing him quite at home there. Not on account of her friend Elizabet_id she feel it: for of the bearings of Elizabeth-Jane's emotions she had no_he least suspicion; but on Henchard's alone.
Now the instant decision of Susan Henchard's daughter was to dwell in tha_ouse no more. Apart from her estimate of the propriety of Lucetta's conduct, Farfrae had been so nearly her avowed lover that she felt she could not abid_here.
It was still early in the evening when she hastily put on her things and wen_ut. In a few minutes, knowing the ground, she had found a suitable lodging, and arranged to enter it that night. Returning and entering noiselessly sh_ook off her pretty dress and arrayed herself in a plain one, packing up th_ther to keep as her best; for she would have to be very economical now. Sh_rote a note to leave for Lucetta, who was closely shut up in the drawing-roo_ith Farfrae; and then Elizabeth-Jane called a man with a wheel-barrow; an_eeing her boxes put into it she trotted off down the street to her rooms.
They were in the street in which Henchard lived, and almost opposite his door.
Here she sat down and considered the means of subsistence. The little annua_um settled on her by her stepfather would keep body and soul together. _onderful skill in netting of all sorts—acquired in childhood by making seine_n Newson's home—might serve her in good stead; and her studies, which wer_ursued unremittingly, might serve her in still better.
By this time the marriage that had taken place was known throughou_asterbridge; had been discussed noisily on kerbstones, confidentially behin_ounters, and jovially at the Three Mariners. Whether Farfrae would sell hi_usiness and set up for a gentleman on his wife's money, or whether he woul_how independence enough to stick to his trade in spite of his brillian_lliance, was a great point of interest.