Table of Contents

+ Add to Library

Previous Next

Chapter 8

  • 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!"