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“I am of one and the same mind."
“Very well. We shall be home by three o'clock or 80, and can creep into the parish like lambs."
Bathsheba's perturbed meditations by the roadside had ultimately evolved a conclusion that there were only two remedies for the present desperate state of affairs. The first was merely to keep Troy away from Weatherbury till Boldwood's indignation had cooled; the scond to listen to Oak's entreaties, and Boldwood's denunciations, and give up Troy altogether.
Alas! Could she give up this new love-induce him to renounce her by saying she did not like him-could no more speak to him, and beg him, for her good, to end his furlough in Bath, and see her and Weatherbury no more?
It was a picture full of misery, but for a while she contemplated it firmly, allowing herself, nerertheless, as girls will, to dwell upon the happy life she would have enjoyed had Troy been Boldwood, and the path of love the path of duty-inflicting upon herself gratuitous tortures by imagining him the lover of another woman after forgetting her; for she had penetrated Troy's nature so far as to estimate his tendencies pretty accurately, but unfortunately loved him no less in thinking that he might soon cease to love her-indeed considerably more.
She jumped to her feet. She would see him at once. Yes, she would implore him by word of mouth to assist her in this dilemma. A letter to keep him away could not reach him in time, even if he should be disposed to listen to it.
Was Bathsheba altogether blind to the obvious fact that the support of a lover's arms is not of a kind best calculated to assist a resolve to · renounce him? Or was she sophistically sensible, with a thrill of
pleasure, that by adopting this course for getting rid of him she was ensuring a meeting with him, at any rate, once more ?
It was now dark, and the hour must have been nearly ten. The only way to accomplish her purpose was to give up the idea of visiting Liddy at Yalbury, return to Weatherbury Farm, put the horse into the gig, and drive at once to Bath. The scheme seemed at first impossible: the journey was a fearfully heavy one, even for a strong horse; it was most venturesome for a woman, at night, and alone.
But could she go on to Liddy's and leave things to take their course ? No, no, anything but that. Bathsheba was full of a stimulating turbulence, beside which caution vainly prayed for a hearing. She turned back towards the village.
Her walk was slow, for she wished not to enter Weatherbury till the cottagers were in bed, and, particularly, till Boldwood was secure. Her plan was now to drive to Bath during the night, see Sergeant Troy in the morning before he set out to come to her, bid him farewell, and dismiss him : then to rest the horse thoroughly (herself to weep the while, she
thought), starting early the next morning on her return journey. By this arrangement she could trot Dainty gently all the day, reach Liddy at Yalbury in the evening, and come home to Westerbury with her whenever they chose—80 nobody would know she had been to Bath at all.
This idea she proceeded to carry out, with what success we have already seen.
IN THE SUN: A HARBINGER.
A WEEK passed, and there were no tidings of Bathsheba ; nor was there any explanation of her Gilpin's rig.
Then a note came for Maryann, stating that the business which had called her mistress to Bath still detained her there ; but that she hoped to return in the course of another week.
Another week passed. The oat-harvest began, and all the men were afield under a monochromatic Lammas sky, amid the trembling air and short shadows of noon. Indoors nothing was to be heard save the droning of blue-bottle flies; out-of-doors the whetting of scythes and the hiss of tressy oat-ears rubbing together as their perpendicular stalks of amberyellow fell heavily to each swath. Every drop of moisture not in the men's bottles and flagons in the form of cider was raining as perspiration from their foreheads and cheeks. Drought was everywhere else.
They were about to withdraw for a while into the charitable shade of a tree in the fence, when Coggan saw a figure in a blue coat and brass buttons running to them across the field.
"I wonder who that is ? ” he said.
“I hope nothing is wrong about mistress," said Maryann, who with some other women were tying the bundles (oats being always sheafed on this farm), “but an unlucky token came to me indoors this morning. I went to unlock the door and dropped the key, and it fell upon the stone floor and broke into two pieces. Breaking a key is a dreadful bodement. I wish mis'ess was home."
“ 'Tis Cain Ball,” said Gabriel, pausing from whetting his reaphook.
Oak was not bound by his agreement to assist in the corn-field; but the harvest-month is an anxious time for a farmer, and the corn was Bathsheba’s, so he lent a hand.
“He's dressed up in his best clothes,” said Matthew Moon. “He hev been away from home for a few days, since he's had that felon upon his finger; for a' said, since I can't work I'll have a hollerday."
“A good time for one—an excellent time,” said Joseph Poorgrass, straightening his back; for he, like some of the others, had a way of resting a while from his labour on such hot days for reasons preternaturally small; of which Cain Ball's advent on a week-day in his Sunday clothes was one of the first magnitude. 'Twas a bad leg allowed me VOL. XXX.-NO. 175,
to read the Pilgrim's Progress, and Mark Clark learnt All-Fours in a whitlow.”
“Ay, and my father put his arm out of joint to have time to go courting,” said Jan Coggan in an eclipsing tone, wiping his face with his shirt-sleeve and thrusting back his hat upon the nape of his neck.
By this time Cainy was nearing the group of harvesters, and was perceived to be carrying a large slice of bread and ham in one hand, from which he took mouthfuls as he ran, the other hand being wrapped in a bandage. When he came close, his mouth assumed the bell shape, and he began to cough violently. “Now, Cainy!" said Gabriel, sternly. .
“How many more times must I tell you to keep from running so fast when you are eating? You'll choke yourself some day, that's what you'll do, Cain Ball.”
“Hok-hok-hok!” replied Cain. “A crumb of my victuals went the wrong way-hok-hok! That's what 'tis, Mister Oak! And I've been visiting to Bath because I had a felon on my thumb; yes, and I've seenahok-hok!"
Directly Cain mentioned Bath, they all threw down their hooks and forks and drew round him. Unfortunately the erratic crumb did not improve his narrative powers, and a supplementary hindrance was that of a sneeze, jerking from his pocket his rather large watch, which dangled in front of the young man pendulum-wise.
“Yes,” he continued, directing his thoughts to Bath and letting his eyes follow, “ I've seed the world at last-yes-and I've seed our mis'ess -ahok-hok-hok !"
“ Bother the boy !” said Gabriel. “Something is always going the wrong way down your throat, so that you can't tell what's necessary to be told.”
“Ahok! there! Please, Mister Oak, a gnat have just flewed into my stomach and brought the cough on again!"
“ Yes, that's just it. Your mouth is always open, you young rascal."
“ 'Tis terrible bad to have a gnat fly down yer throat, pore boy!" said Matthew Moon.
“Well, at Bath you saw—" prompted Gabriel.
“I saw our mistress," continued the junior shepherd, “and a soldier, walking along. And bymeby they got closer and closer, and then they went arm-in-crook, like courting completehok-hok ! like courting complete_hok !-courting complete" Losing the thread of his narrative at this point simultaneously with his loss of breath, their informant looked
and down the field apparently for some clue to it. “Well, I see our mis'ess and a soldier-a-ha-a-wk!"
the boy!” said Gabriel. “ 'Tis only my manner, Mister Oak, if ye'll excuse it,” said Cain Ball, looking reproachfully at Oak, with eyes drenched in their own dew.
“ Here's some cider for him-that'll cure his throat,” said Jan
Coggan, lifting a flagon of cider, pulling out the cork, and applying the hole to Cainy's mouth ; Joseph Poorgrass in the meantime beginning to think apprehensively of the serious consequences that would follow Cainy Ball's strangulation in his cough, and the history of his Bath adventures dying with him.
"For my poor self, I always say 'please God' afore I do anything," said Joseph, in an unboastful voice ; "and so should you, Cain Ball. 'Tis a great safeguard, and might perhaps save you from being choked to death some day.”
Mr. Coggan poured the liquor with unstinted liberality at the suffering Cain's circular mouth ; half of it running down the side of the flagon, and half of what reached his mouth running down outside his throat, and half of what ran in going the wrong way, and being coughed and sneezed around the persons of the gathered reapers in the form of a rarefied cider fog, which for a moment hung in the sunny air like a small exhalation.
“There's a great clumsy sneeze! Why can't ye have better manners, you young dog!" said Coggan, withdrawing the flagon.
" The cider went up my nose ! ” cried Cainy, as soon as he could speak; “and now 'tis gone down my neck, and into my poor dumb felon, and over my shiny buttons and all my best cloze !"
• The pore lad's cough is terrible unfortunate," said Matthew Moon. "And a great history on hand, too. Bump his back, shepherd.”
“ 'Tis my nater," mourned Cain. “Mother says I always was so excitable when my feelings were worked up to a point.”
" True, true,” said Joseph Poorgrass. “The Balls were always a very excitable family. I knowed the boy's grandfather—a truly nervous and modest man, even to genteel refinement. 'Twas blush, blush with him, almost as much as 'tis with me—not but that 'tis a fault in me."
“Not at all, Master Poorgrass,” said Coggan. “ 'Tis a very noble quality in ye.”
“Heh-heh! well, I wish to noise nothing abroad-nothing at all,” murmured Poorgrass, diffidently. “But we are born to things—that's true. Yet I would rather my trifle were hid ; though, perhaps, a high nature is a little high, and at my birth all things were possible to my Maker and he may have begrudged no gifts. . . . But under your bushel, Joseph ! under your bushel with you! A strange desire, neighbours, this desire to hide, and no praise due. Yet there is a Sermon on the Mount with a calendar of the blessed at the head, and certain meek men may be named therein."
“ Cainy's grandfather was a very clever man,” said Matthew Moon. "Invented a apple-tree out of his own head, which is called by his name to this day-the Early Ball. You know 'em, Jan ? A Quarrington grafted on a Tom Patt, and a Rathe-ripe upon top o' that again. 'Tis trew a' used to bide about in a public-house in a way he had no business to by rights, but there-'a were a clever man in the sense of the term." Now, then,” said Gabriel impatiently, “what did you see, Cain ?".
" I seed our mis'ess go into a sort of a park place, where there's seats, and shrubs and flowers, arm-in-crook with a soldier,” continued Cainy firmly, and with a dim sense that his words were very effective as regarded Gabriel's emotions. " And I think the soldier was Sergeant Troy. And they sat there together for more than half-an-hour, talking moving things, and she once was crying almost to death. And when they came out her eyes were shining and she was as white as a lily; and they looked into one another's faces, as desperately friendly as a man and woman can be."
Gabriel's features seemed to get thinner. “Well, what did you see besides ?
“Oh, all sorts.”
“Great glass windows to the shops, and great clouds in the sky, full of rain, and old wooden trees in the country round."
“ You stun-poll! What will ye say next!” said Coggan.
“Let en alone,” interposed Joseph Poorgrass. “ The boy's maning is that the sky and the earth in the kingdom of Bath is not altogether different from ours here. 'Tis for our good to gain knowledge of strange cities, and as such the boy's words should be suffered, so to speak it."
“ And the people of Bath,” continued Cain, “never need to light their fires except as a luxery, for the water springs up out of the earth ready boiled for use."
“ 'Tis true as the light,” testified Matthew Moon. “I've heard other navigators say the same thing."
“ They drink nothing else there,” said Cain, “and seem to enjoy it, to see how they swaller it down."
“ Well, it seems a barbarous practice enough to us, but I daresay the natives think nothing of it," said Matthew.
“ And don't victuals spring up as well as drink?" asked Coggan, twirling his eye.
“No-I own to a blot there in Bath-a true blot. God didn't provide 'em with victuals as well as drink, and 'twas a drawback I couldn't get over at all.”
“Well, 'tis a curious place, to say the least," observed Moon; “and it must be a curious people that live therein.”
" Miss Everdene and the soldier were walking about together, you say ?” said Gabriel, returning to the group.
· Ay, and she wore a beautiful gold-colour silk gown, trimmed with black lace, that would have stood alone without legs inside if required. 'Twas a very winsome sight; and her hair was brushed splendid. And when the sun shone upon the bright gown and his red coat-my! how handsome they looked. You could see 'em all the length of the street."
" And what then?" murmured Gabriel.