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Chapter 9

  • When Elizabeth-Jane opened the hinged casement next morning the mellow ai_rought in the feel of imminent autumn almost as distinctly as if she had bee_n the remotest hamlet. Casterbridge was the complement of the rural lif_round, not its urban opposite. Bees and butterflies in the cornfields at th_op of the town, who desired to get to the meads at the bottom, took n_ircuitous course, but flew straight down High Street without any apparen_onsciousness that they were traversing strange latitudes. And in autumn air_pheres of thistledown floated into the same street, lodged upon the sho_ronts, blew into drains, and innumerable tawny and yellow leaves skimme_long the pavement, and stole through people's doorways into their passage_ith a hesitating scratch on the floor, like the skirts of timid visitors.
  • Hearing voices, one of which was close at hand, she withdrew her head an_lanced from behind the window-curtains. Mr. Henchard—now habited no longer a_ great personage, but as a thriving man of business—was pausing on his way u_he middle of the street, and the Scotchman was looking from the windo_djoining her own. Henchard it appeared, had gone a little way past the in_efore he had noticed his acquaintance of the previous evening. He came back _ew steps, Donald Farfrae opening the window further.
  • "And you are off soon, I suppose?" said Henchard upwards.
  • "Yes—almost this moment, sir," said the other. "Maybe I'll walk on till th_oach makes up on me."
  • "Which way?"
  • "The way ye are going."
  • "Then shall we walk together to the top o' town?"
  • "If ye'll wait a minute," said the Scotchman.
  • In a few minutes the latter emerged, bag in hand. Henchard looked at the ba_s at an enemy. It showed there was no mistake about the young man'_eparture. "Ah, my lad," he said, "you should have been a wise man, and hav_tayed with me."
  • "Yes, yes—it might have been wiser," said Donald, looking microscopically a_he houses that were furthest off. "It is only telling ye the truth when I sa_y plans are vague."
  • They had by this time passed on from the precincts of the inn, and Elizabeth- Jane heard no more. She saw that they continued in conversation, Henchar_urning to the other occasionally, and emphasizing some remark with a gesture.
  • Thus they passed the King's Arms Hotel, the Market House, St. Peter'_hurchyard wall, ascending to the upper end of the long street till they wer_mall as two grains of corn; when they bent suddenly to the right into th_ristol Road, and were out of view.
  • "He was a good man—and he's gone," she said to herself. "I was nothing to him, and there was no reason why he should have wished me good-bye."
  • The simple thought, with its latent sense of slight, had moulded itself out o_he following little fact: when the Scotchman came out at the door he had b_ccident glanced up at her; and then he had looked away again without nodding, or smiling, or saying a word.
  • "You are still thinking, mother," she said, when she turned inwards.
  • "Yes; I am thinking of Mr. Henchard's sudden liking for that young man. He wa_lways so. Now, surely, if he takes so warmly to people who are not related t_im at all, may he not take as warmly to his own kin?"
  • While they debated this question a procession of five large waggons went past, laden with hay up to the bedroom windows. They came in from the country, an_he steaming horses had probably been travelling a great part of the night. T_he shaft of each hung a little board, on which was painted in white letters,
  • "Henchard, corn-factor and hay-merchant." The spectacle renewed his wife'_onviction that, for her daughter's sake, she should strain a point to rejoi_im.
  • The discussion was continued during breakfast, and the end of it was that Mrs.
  • Henchard decided, for good or for ill, to send Elizabeth-Jane with a messag_o Henchard, to the effect that his relative Susan, a sailor's widow, was i_he town; leaving it to him to say whether or not he would recognize her. Wha_ad brought her to this determination were chiefly two things. He had bee_escribed as a lonely widower; and he had expressed shame for a pas_ransaction of his life. There was promise in both.
  • "If he says no," she enjoined, as Elizabeth-Jane stood, bonnet on, ready t_epart; "if he thinks it does not become the good position he has reached t_n the town, to own—to let us call on him as—his distant kinfolk, say, 'Then, sir, we would rather not intrude; we will leave Casterbridge as quietly as w_ave come, and go back to our own country.'… I almost feel that I would rathe_e did say so, as I have not seen him for so many years, and we are so—littl_llied to him!"
  • "And if he say yes?" inquired the more sanguine one.
  • "In that case," answered Mrs. Henchard cautiously, "ask him to write me _ote, saying when and how he will see us—or ME."
  • Elizabeth-Jane went a few steps towards the landing. "And tell him," continue_er mother, "that I fully know I have no claim upon him—that I am glad to fin_e is thriving; that I hope his life may be long and happy—there, go." Thu_ith a half-hearted willingness, a smothered reluctance, did the poo_orgiving woman start her unconscious daughter on this errand.
  • It was about ten o'clock, and market-day, when Elizabeth paced up the Hig_treet, in no great hurry; for to herself her position was only that of a poo_elation deputed to hunt up a rich one. The front doors of the private house_ere mostly left open at this warm autumn time, no thought of umbrell_tealers disturbing the minds of the placid burgesses. Hence, through th_ong, straight, entrance passages thus unclosed could be seen, as throug_unnels, the mossy gardens at the back, glowing with nasturtiums, fuchsias, scarlet geraniums, "bloody warriors," snapdragons, and dahlias, this flora_laze being backed by crusted grey stone-work remaining from a yet remote_asterbridge than the venerable one visible in the street. The old-fashione_ronts of these houses, which had older than old-fashioned backs, rose shee_rom the pavement, into which the bow windows protruded like bastions, necessitating a pleasing chassez-dechassez movement to the time-presse_edestrian at every few yards. He was bound also to evolve other Terpsichorea_igures in respect of door-steps, scrapers, cellar-hatches, church buttresses, and the overhanging angles of walls which, originally unobtrusive, had becom_ow-legged and knock-kneed.
  • In addition to these fixed obstacles which spoke so cheerfully of individua_nrestraint as to boundaries, movables occupied the path and roadway to _erplexing extent. First the vans of the carriers in and out of Casterbridge, who hailed from Mellstock, Weatherbury, The Hintocks, Sherton-Abbas, Kingsbere, Overcombe, and many other towns and villages round. Their owner_ere numerous enough to be regarded as a tribe, and had almost distinctivenes_nough to be regarded as a race. Their vans had just arrived, and were draw_p on each side of the street in close file, so as to form at places a wal_etween the pavement and the roadway. Moreover every shop pitched out half it_ontents upon trestles and boxes on the kerb, extending the display each wee_ little further and further into the roadway, despite the expostulations o_he two feeble old constables, until there remained but a tortuous defile fo_arriages down the centre of the street, which afforded fine opportunities fo_kill with the reins. Over the pavement on the sunny side of the way hun_hopblinds so constructed as to give the passenger's hat a smart buffet of_is head, as from the unseen hands of Cranstoun's Goblin Page, celebrated i_omantic lore.
  • Horses for sale were tied in rows, their forelegs on the pavement, their hin_egs in the street, in which position they occasionally nipped little boys b_he shoulder who were passing to school. And any inviting recess in front of _ouse that had been modestly kept back from the general line was utilized b_ig-dealers as a pen for their stock.
  • The yeomen, farmers, dairymen, and townsfolk, who came to transact business i_hese ancient streets, spoke in other ways than by articulation. Not to hea_he words of your interlocutor in metropolitan centres is to know nothing o_is meaning. Here the face, the arms, the hat, the stick, the body throughou_poke equally with the tongue. To express satisfaction the Casterbridg_arket-man added to his utterance a broadening of the cheeks, a crevicing o_he eyes, a throwing back of the shoulders, which was intelligible from th_ther end of the street. If he wondered, though all Henchard's carts an_aggons were rattling past him, you knew it from perceiving the inside of hi_rimson mouth, and a target-like circling of his eyes. Deliberation cause_undry attacks on the moss of adjoining walls with the end of his stick, _hange of his hat from the horizontal to the less so; a sense of tediousnes_nnounced itself in a lowering of the person by spreading the knees to _ozenge-shaped aperture and contorting the arms. Chicanery, subterfuge, ha_ardly a place in the streets of this honest borough to all appearance; and i_as said that the lawyers in the Court House hard by occasionally threw i_trong arguments for the other side out of pure generosity (though apparentl_y mischance) when advancing their own.
  • Thus Casterbridge was in most respects but the pole, focus, or nerve-knot o_he surrounding country life; differing from the many manufacturing town_hich are as foreign bodies set down, like boulders on a plain, in a gree_orld with which they have nothing in common. Casterbridge lived b_griculture at one remove further from the fountainhead than the adjoinin_illages—no more. The townsfolk understood every fluctuation in the rustic'_ondition, for it affected their receipts as much as the labourer's; the_ntered into the troubles and joys which moved the aristocratic families te_iles round—for the same reason. And even at the dinner-parties of th_rofessional families the subjects of discussion were corn, cattle-disease, sowing and reaping, fencing and planting; while politics were viewed by the_ess from their own standpoint of burgesses with rights and privileges tha_rom the standpoint of their country neighbours.
  • All the venerable contrivances and confusions which delighted the eye by thei_uaintness, and in a measure reasonableness, in this rare old market-town, were metropolitan novelties to the unpractised eyes of Elizabeth-Jane, fres_rom netting fish-seines in a seaside cottage. Very little inquiry wa_ecessary to guide her footsteps. Henchard's house was one of the best, face_ith dull red-and-grey old brick. The front door was open, and, as in othe_ouses, she could see through the passage to the end of the garden—nearly _uarter of a mile off.
  • Mr. Henchard was not in the house, but in the store-yard. She was conducte_nto the mossy garden, and through a door in the wall, which was studded wit_usty nails speaking of generations of fruit-trees that had been traine_here. The door opened upon the yard, and here she was left to find him as sh_ould. It was a place flanked by hay-barns, into which tons of fodder, all i_russes, were being packed from the waggons she had seen pass the inn tha_orning. On other sides of the yard were wooden granaries on stone staddles, to which access was given by Flemish ladders, and a store-house several floor_igh. Wherever the doors of these places were open, a closely packed throng o_ursting wheat-sacks could be seen standing inside, with the air of awaiting _amine that would not come.
  • She wandered about this place, uncomfortably conscious of the impendin_nterview, till she was quite weary of searching; she ventured to inquire of _oy in what quarter Mr. Henchard could be found. He directed her to an offic_hich she had not seen before, and knocking at the door she was answered by _ry of "Come in."
  • Elizabeth turned the handle; and there stood before her, bending over som_ample-bags on a table, not the corn-merchant, but the young Scotchman Mr.
  • Farfrae—in the act of pouring some grains of wheat from one hand to the other.
  • His hat hung on a peg behind him, and the roses of his carpet-bag glowed fro_he corner of the room.
  • Having toned her feelings and arranged words on her lips for Mr. Henchard, an_or him alone, she was for the moment confounded.
  • "Yes, what it is?" said the Scotchman, like a man who permanently ruled there.
  • She said she wanted to see Mr. Henchard.
  • "Ah, yes; will you wait a minute? He's engaged just now," said the young man, apparently not recognizing her as the girl at the inn. He handed her a chair, bade her sit down and turned to his sample-bags again. While Elizabeth-Jan_its waiting in great amaze at the young man's presence we may briefly explai_ow he came there.
  • When the two new acquaintances had passed out of sight that morning toward_he Bath and Bristol road they went on silently, except for a fe_ommonplaces, till they had gone down an avenue on the town walls called th_halk Walk, leading to an angle where the North and West escarpments met. Fro_his high corner of the square earthworks a vast extent of country could b_een. A footpath ran steeply down the green slope, conducting from the shad_romenade on the walls to a road at the bottom of the scarp. It was by thi_ath the Scotchman had to descend.
  • "Well, here's success to 'ee," said Henchard, holding out his right hand an_eaning with his left upon the wicket which protected the descent. In the ac_here was the inelegance of one whose feelings are nipped and wishes defeated.
  • "I shall often think of this time, and of how you came at the very moment t_hrow a light upon my difficulty."
  • Still holding the young man's hand he paused, and then added deliberately:
  • "Now I am not the man to let a cause be lost for want of a word. And before y_re gone for ever I'll speak. Once more, will ye stay? There it is, flat an_lain. You can see that it isn't all selfishness that makes me press 'ee; fo_y business is not quite so scientific as to require an intellect entirely ou_f the common. Others would do for the place without doubt. Some selfishnes_erhaps there is, but there is more; it isn't for me to repeat what. Come bid_ith me—and name your own terms. I'll agree to 'em willingly and 'ithout _ord of gainsaying; for, hang it, Farfrae, I like thee well!"
  • The young man's hand remained steady in Henchard's for a moment or two. H_ooked over the fertile country that stretched beneath them, then backwar_long the shaded walk reaching to the top of the town. His face flushed.
  • "I never expected this—I did not!" he said. "It's Providence! Should any on_o against it? No; I'll not go to America; I'll stay and be your man!"
  • His hand, which had lain lifeless in Henchard's, returned the latter's grasp.
  • "Done," said Henchard.
  • "Done," said Donald Farfrae.
  • The face of Mr. Henchard beamed forth a satisfaction that was almost fierce i_ts strength. "Now you are my friend!" he exclaimed. "Come back to my house; let's clinch it at once by clear terms, so as to be comfortable in our minds."
  • Farfrae caught up his bag and retraced the North-West Avenue in Henchard'_ompany as he had come. Henchard was all confidence now.
  • "I am the most distant fellow in the world when I don't care for a man," h_aid. "But when a man takes my fancy he takes it strong. Now I am sure you ca_at another breakfast? You couldn't have eaten much so early, even if they ha_nything at that place to gi'e thee, which they hadn't; so come to my hous_nd we will have a solid, staunch tuck-in, and settle terms in black-and-whit_f you like; though my word's my bond. I can always make a good meal in th_orning. I've got a splendid cold pigeon-pie going just now. You can have som_ome-brewed if you want to, you know."
  • "It is too airly in the morning for that," said Farfrae with a smile.
  • "Well, of course, I didn't know. I don't drink it because of my oath, but I a_bliged to brew for my work-people."
  • Thus talking they returned, and entered Henchard's premises by the back way o_raffic entrance. Here the matter was settled over the breakfast, at whic_enchard heaped the young Scotchman's plate to a prodigal fulness. He woul_ot rest satisfied till Farfrae had written for his luggage from Bristol, an_ispatched the letter to the post-office. When it was done this man of stron_mpulses declared that his new friend should take up his abode in his house—a_east till some suitable lodgings could be found.
  • He then took Farfrae round and showed him the place, and the stores of grain, and other stock; and finally entered the offices where the younger of them ha_lready been discovered by Elizabeth.