Thus they parted; and Elizabeth-Jane and her mother remained each in he_houghts over their meal, the mother's face being strangely bright sinc_enchard's avowal of shame for a past action. The quivering of the partitio_o its core presented denoted that Donald Farfrae had again rung his bell, n_oubt to have his supper removed; for humming a tune, and walking up and down, he seemed to be attracted by the lively bursts of conversation and melody fro_he general company below. He sauntered out upon the landing, and descende_he staircase.
When Elizabeth-Jane had carried down his supper tray, and also that used b_er mother and herself, she found the bustle of serving to be at its heigh_elow, as it always was at this hour. The young woman shrank from havin_nything to do with the ground-floor serving, and crept silently abou_bserving the scene—so new to her, fresh from the seclusion of a seasid_ottage. In the general sitting-room, which was large, she remarked the two o_hree dozen strong-backed chairs that stood round against the wall, eac_itted with its genial occupant; the sanded floor; the black settle which, projecting endwise from the wall within the door, permitted Elizabeth to be _pectator of all that went on without herself being particularly seen.
The young Scotchman had just joined the guests. These, in addition to th_espectable master-tradesmen occupying the seats of privileges in the bow- window and its neighbourhood, included an inferior set at the unlighted end, whose seats were mere benches against the wall, and who drank from cup_nstead of from glasses. Among the latter she noticed some of those personage_ho had stood outside the windows of the King's Arms.
Behind their backs was a small window, with a wheel ventilator in one of th_anes, which would suddenly start off spinning with a jingling sound, a_uddenly stop, and as suddenly start again.
While thus furtively making her survey the opening words of a song greeted he_ars from the front of the settle, in a melody and accent of peculiar charm.
There had been some singing before she came down; and now the Scotchman ha_ade himself so soon at home that, at the request of some of the master- tradesmen, he, too, was favouring the room with a ditty.
Elizabeth-Jane was fond of music; she could not help pausing to listen; an_he longer she listened the more she was enraptured. She had never heard an_inging like this and it was evident that the majority of the audience had no_eard such frequently, for they were attentive to a much greater degree tha_sual. They neither whispered, nor drank, nor dipped their pipe-stems in thei_le to moisten them, nor pushed the mug to their neighbours. The singe_imself grew emotional, till she could imagine a tear in his eye as the word_ent on:—
"It's hame, and it's hame, hame fain would I be,
O hame, hame, hame to my ain countree!
There's an eye that ever weeps, and a fair face will be fain,
As I pass through Annan Water with my bonnie bands again;
When the flower is in the bud, and the leaf upon the tree,
The lark shall sing me hame to my ain countree!"
There was a burst of applause, and a deep silence which was even more eloquen_han the applause. It was of such a kind that the snapping of a pipe-stem to_ong for him by old Solomon Longways, who was one of those gathered at th_hady end of the room, seemed a harsh and irreverent act. Then the ventilato_n the window-pane spasmodically started off for a new spin, and the pathos o_onald's song was temporarily effaced.
"'Twas not amiss—not at all amiss!" muttered Christopher Coney, who was als_resent. And removing his pipe a finger's breadth from his lips, he sai_loud, "Draw on with the next verse, young gentleman, please."
"Yes. Let's have it again, stranger," said the glazier, a stout, bucket-heade_an, with a white apron rolled up round his waist. "Folks don't lift up thei_earts like that in this part of the world." And turning aside, he said i_ndertones, "Who is the young man?—Scotch, d'ye say?"
"Yes, straight from the mountains of Scotland, I believe," replied Coney.
Young Farfrae repeated the last verse. It was plain that nothing so patheti_ad been heard at the Three Mariners for a considerable time. The differenc_f accent, the excitability of the singer, the intense local feeling, and th_eriousness with which he worked himself up to a climax, surprised this set o_orthies, who were only too prone to shut up their emotions with causti_ords.
"Danged if our country down here is worth singing about like that!" continue_he glazier, as the Scotchman again melodized with a dying fall, "My ai_ountree!" "When you take away from among us the fools and the rogues, and th_ammigers, and the wanton hussies, and the slatterns, and such like, there'_ust few left to ornament a song with in Casterbridge, or the country round."
"True," said Buzzford, the dealer, looking at the grain of the table.
"Casterbridge is a old, hoary place o' wickedness, by all account. 'Ti_ecorded in history that we rebelled against the King one or two hundred year_go, in the time of the Romans, and that lots of us was hanged on Gallow_ill, and quartered, and our different jints sent about the country lik_utcher's meat; and for my part I can well believe it."
"What did ye come away from yer own country for, young maister, if ye be s_ownded about it?" inquired Christopher Coney, from the background, with th_one of a man who preferred the original subject. "Faith, it wasn't worth you_hile on our account, for as Maister Billy Wills says, we be bruckle fol_ere—the best o' us hardly honest sometimes, what with hard winters, and s_any mouths to fill, and Goda'mighty sending his little taties so terribl_mall to fill 'em with. We don't think about flowers and fair faces, no_e—except in the shape o' cauliflowers and pigs' chaps."
"But, no!" said Donald Farfrae, gazing round into their faces with earnes_oncern; "the best of ye hardly honest—not that surely? None of ye has bee_tealing what didn't belong to him?"
"Lord! no, no!" said Solomon Longways, smiling grimly. "That's only his rando_ay o' speaking. 'A was always such a man of underthoughts." (And reprovingl_owards Christopher): "Don't ye be so over-familiar with a gentleman that y_now nothing of—and that's travelled a'most from the North Pole."
Christopher Coney was silenced, and as he could get no public sympathy, h_umbled his feelings to himself: "Be dazed, if I loved my country half as wel_s the young feller do, I'd live by claning my neighbour's pigsties afore I'_o away! For my part I've no more love for my country than I have for Botan_ay!"
"Come," said Longways; "let the young man draw onward with his ballet, or w_hall be here all night."
"That's all of it," said the singer apologetically.
"Soul of my body, then we'll have another!" said the general dealer.
"Can you turn a strain to the ladies, sir?" inquired a fat woman with _igured purple apron, the waiststring of which was overhung so far by he_ides as to be invisible.
"Let him breathe—let him breathe, Mother Cuxsom. He hain't got his second win_et," said the master glazier.
"Oh yes, but I have!" exclaimed the young man; and he at once rendered "_annie" with faultless modulations, and another or two of the like sentiment, winding up at their earnest request with "Auld Lang Syne."
By this time he had completely taken possession of the hearts of the Thre_ariners' inmates, including even old Coney. Notwithstanding an occasional od_ravity which awoke their sense of the ludicrous for the moment, they began t_iew him through a golden haze which the tone of his mind seemed to rais_round him. Casterbridge had sentiment—Casterbridge had romance; but thi_tranger's sentiment was of differing quality. Or rather, perhaps, th_ifference was mainly superficial; he was to them like the poet of a ne_chool who takes his contemporaries by storm; who is not really new, but i_he first to articulate what all his listeners have felt, though but dumbl_ill then.
The silent landlord came and leant over the settle while the young man sang; and even Mrs. Stannidge managed to unstick herself from the framework of he_hair in the bar and get as far as the door-post, which movement sh_ccomplished by rolling herself round, as a cask is trundled on the chine by _rayman without losing much of its perpendicular.
"And are you going to bide in Casterbridge, sir?" she asked.
"Ah—no!" said the Scotchman, with melancholy fatality in his voice, "I'm onl_assing thirrough! I am on my way to Bristol, and on frae there to foreig_arts."
"We be truly sorry to hear it," said Solomon Longways. "We can ill afford t_ose tuneful wynd-pipes like yours when they fall among us. And verily, t_ak' acquaintance with a man a-come from so far, from the land o' perpetua_now, as we may say, where wolves and wild boars and other dangerou_nimalcules be as common as blackbirds here-about—why, 'tis a thing we can'_o every day; and there's good sound information for bide-at-homes like w_hen such a man opens his mouth."
"Nay, but ye mistake my country," said the young man, looking round upon the_ith tragic fixity, till his eye lighted up and his cheek kindled with _udden enthusiasm to right their errors. "There are not perpetual snow an_olves at all in it!—except snow in winter, and—well—a little in summer jus_ometimes, and a 'gaberlunzie' or two stalking about here and there, if ye ma_all them dangerous. Eh, but you should take a summer jarreny to Edinboro', and Arthur's Seat, and all round there, and then go on to the lochs, and al_he Highland scenery—in May and June—and you would never say 'tis the land o_olves and perpetual snow!"
"Of course not—it stands to reason," said Buzzford. "'Tis barren ignoranc_hat leads to such words. He's a simple home-spun man, that never was fit fo_ood company—think nothing of him, sir."
"And do ye carry your flock bed, and your quilt, and your crock, and your bi_f chiney? or do ye go in bare bones, as I may say?" inquired Christophe_oney.
"I've sent on my luggage—though it isn't much; for the voyage is long."
Donald's eyes dropped into a remote gaze as he added: "But I said to myself,
'Never a one of the prizes of life will I come by unless I undertake it!' an_ decided to go."
A general sense of regret, in which Elizabeth-Jane shared not least, mad_tself apparent in the company. As she looked at Farfrae from the back of th_ettle she decided that his statements showed him to be no less thoughtfu_han his fascinating melodies revealed him to be cordial and impassioned. Sh_dmired the serious light in which he looked at serious things. He had seen n_est in ambiguities and roguery, as the Casterbridge toss-pots had done; an_ightly not—there was none. She disliked those wretched humours of Christophe_oney and his tribe; and he did not appreciate them. He seemed to feel exactl_s she felt about life and its surroundings—that they were a tragical rathe_han a comical thing; that though one could be gay on occasion, moments o_aiety were interludes, and no part of the actual drama. It was extraordinar_ow similar their views were.
Though it was still early the young Scotchman expressed his wish to retire, whereupon the landlady whispered to Elizabeth to run upstairs and turn dow_is bed. She took a candlestick and proceeded on her mission, which was th_ct of a few moments only. When, candle in hand, she reached the top of th_tairs on her way down again, Mr. Farfrae was at the foot coming up. She coul_ot very well retreat; they met and passed in the turn of the staircase.
She must have appeared interesting in some way—not-withstanding her plai_ress—or rather, possibly, in consequence of it, for she was a gir_haracterized by earnestness and soberness of mien, with which simple draper_ccorded well. Her face flushed, too, at the slight awkwardness of th_eeting, and she passed him with her eyes bent on the candle-flame that sh_arried just below her nose. Thus it happened that when confronting her h_miled; and then, with the manner of a temporarily light-hearted man, who ha_tarted himself on a flight of song whose momentum he cannot readily check, h_oftly tuned an old ditty that she seemed to suggest—
"As I came in by my bower door,
As day was waxin' wearie,
Oh wha came tripping down the stair
But bonnie Peg my dearie."
Elizabeth-Jane, rather disconcerted, hastened on; and the Scotchman's voic_ied away, humming more of the same within the closed door of his room.
Here the scene and sentiment ended for the present. When soon after, the gir_ejoined her mother, the latter was still in thought—on quite another matte_han a young man's song.
"We've made a mistake," she whispered (that the Scotch-man might no_verhear). "On no account ought ye to have helped serve here to-night. No_ecause of ourselves, but for the sake of him. If he should befriend us, an_ake us up, and then find out what you did when staying here, 'twould griev_nd wound his natural pride as Mayor of the town."
Elizabeth, who would perhaps have been more alarmed at this than her mothe_ad she known the real relationship, was not much disturbed about it as thing_tood. Her "he" was another man than her poor mother's. "For myself," sh_aid, "I didn't at all mind waiting a little upon him. He's so respectable, and educated—far above the rest of 'em in the inn. They thought him ver_imple not to know their grim broad way of talking about themselves here. Bu_f course he didn't know—he was too refined in his mind to know such things!"
Thus she earnestly pleaded.
Meanwhile, the "he" of her mother was not so far away as even they thought.
After leaving the Three Mariners he had sauntered up and down the empty Hig_treet, passing and repassing the inn in his promenade. When the Scotchma_ang his voice had reached Henchard's ears through the heart-shaped holes i_he window-shutters, and had led him to pause outside them a long while.
"To be sure, to be sure, how that fellow does draw me!" he had said t_imself. "I suppose 'tis because I'm so lonely. I'd have given him a thir_hare in the business to have stayed!"