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CHAPTER XXXV



AT AN UPPER WINDOW


IT was very early the next morning -- a time of sun and
dew. The confused beginnings of many birds' songs
spread into the healthy air, and the wan blue of the
heaven was here and there coated with thin webs of
incorporeal cloud which were of no effect in obscuring
day. All the lights in the scene were yellow as to
colour, and all the shadows were attenuated as to form.
The creeping plants about the old manor-house were
bowed with rows of heavy water drops, which had upon
objects behind them the effect of minute lenses of high
magnifying power.
Just before the clock struck five Gabriel Oak and
Coggan passed the village cross, and went on together
to the fields. They were yet barely in view of their
mistress's house, when Oak fancied he saw the opening
of a casement in one of the upper windows. The two
men were at this moment partially screened by an elder
bush, now beginning to be enriched with black bunches
of fruit, and they paused before emerging from its
shade.
A handsome man leaned idly from the lattice. He
looked east and then west, in the manner of one who
makes a first morning survey. The man was Sergeant
Troy. His red jacket was loosely thrown on, but not
buttoned, and he had altogether the relaxed bearing of
a soldier taking his ease.
Coggan spoke first, looking quietly at the window.
"She has married him!" he said.
Gabriel had previously beheld the sight, and he now
stood with his back turned, making no reply.
"I fancied we should know something to-day." con-
tinued Coggan. "I heard wheels pass my door just
after dark -- you were out somewhere."He glanced
round upon Gabriel. "Good heavens above us, Oak,
how white your face is; you look like a corpse!"
"Do I?" said Oak, with a faint smile.
"Lean on the gate: I'll wait a bit."
"All right, all right."
They stood by the gate awhile, Gabriel listlessly
staring at the ground. His mind sped into the future,
and saw there enacted in years of leisure the scenes o
repentance that would ensue from this work of haste
That they were married he had instantly decided. Why
had it been so mysteriously managed? It had become
known that she had had a fearful journey to Bath, owing
to her miscalculating the distance: that the horse had
broken down, and that she had been more than two
days getting there. It was not Bathsheba's way to do
things furtively. With all her faults, she was candour
itself. Could she have been entrapped? The union
was not only an unutterable grief to him: it amazed
him, notwithstanding that he had passed the preceding
week in a suspicion that such might be the issue of
Troy's meeting her away from home. Her quiet return
with liddy had to some extent dispersed the dread.
Just as that imperceptible motion which appears like
stillness is infinitely divided in its properties from stili
ness itself, so had his hope undistinguishable from
despair differed from despair indeed.
In a few minutes they moved on again towards the
house. The sergeant still looked from the window.
"Morning, comrades!" he shouted, in a cheery voice,
when they came up.
Coggan replied to the greeting. "Bain't ye going to
answer the man?" he then said to Gabriel. "I'd say
good morning -- you needn't spend a hapenny of meaning
upon it, and yet keep the man civil."
Gabriel soon decided too that, since the deed was
done, to put the best face upon the matter would be the
greatest kindness to her he loved.
"Good morning, Sergeant Troy." he returned, in a
ghastly voice.
"A rambling, gloomy house this." said Troy, smiling.
"Why -- they may not be married!" suggested Coggan.
"Perhaps she's not there."
Gabriel shook his head. The soldier turned a little
towards the east, and the sun kindled his scarlet coat
to an orange glow.
"But it is a nice old house." responded Gabriel.
"Yes -- I suppose so; but I feel like new wine in an
old bottle here. My notion is that sash-windows should
be put throughout, and these old wainscoted walls
brightened up a bit; or the oak cleared quite away, and
the walls papered."
"It would be a pity, I think."
Well, no. A philosopher once said in my hearing
that the old builders, who worked when art was a living
thing, had no respect for the work of builders who went
before them, but pulled down and altered as they
thought fit; and why shouldn't we?"'Creation and
preservation don't do well together." says he, "and a
million of antiquarians can't invent a style." My mind
exactly. I am for making this place more modern, that
we may be cheerful whilst we can."
The military man turned and surveyed the interior
of the room, to assist his ideas of improvement in this
direction. Gabriel and Coggan began to move on.
"Oh, Coggan." said Troy, as if inspired by a recollec-
tion" do you know if insanity has ever appeared in Mr.
Boldwood's family?"
Jan reflected for a moment.
"I once heard that an uncle of his was queer in his
head, but I don't know the rights o't." he said.
"It is of no importance." said Troy, lightly. "Well,
I shall be down in the fields with you some time this
week; but I have a few matters to attend to first. So
good-day to you. We shall, of course, keep on just as
friendly terms as usual. I'm not a proud man: nobody
is ever able to say that of Sergeant Troy. However,
what is must be, and here's half-a-crown to drink my
health, men."
Troy threw the coin dexterously across the front plot
and over the fence towards Gabriel, who shunned it in
its fall, his face turning to an angry red. Coggan
twirled his eye, edged forward, and caught the money
in its ricochet upon the road.
"very well-you keep it, Coggan." said Gabriel with
disdain and almost fiercely. "As for me, I'll do with-
out gifts from him!"
"Don't show it too much." said Coggan, musingly.
"For if he's married to her, mark my words, he'll buy
his discharge and be our master here. Therefore 'tis
well to say `Friend' outwardly, though you say
`Troublehouse' within."
"Well-perhaps it is best to be silent; but I can't
go further than that. I can't flatter, and if my place
here is only to be kept by smoothing him down, my
place must be lost."
A horseman, whom they had for some time seen in
the distance, now appeared close beside them.
"There's Mr. Boldwood." said Oak." I wonder what
Troy meant by his question."
Coggan and Oak nodded respectfully to the farmer,
just checked their paces to discover if they were wanted,
and finding they were not stood back to let him pass on.
The only signs of the terrible sorrow Boldwood had
been combating through the night, and was combating
now, were the want of colour in his well-defined face,
the enlarged appearance of the veins in his forehead
and temples, and the sharper lines about his mouth.
The horse bore him away, and the very step of the
animal seemed significant of dogged despair. Gabriel, for
a minute, rose above his own grief in noticing Boldwood's.
He saw the square figure sitting erect upon the horse,
the head turned to neither side, the elbows steady by
the hips, the brim of the hat level and undisturbed in
its onward glide, until the keen edges of Boldwood's
shape sank by degrees over the hill. To one who knew
the man and his story there was something more striking
in this immobility than in a collapse. The clash of
discord between mood and matter here was forced
painfully home to the heart; and, as in laughter there are
more dreadful phases than in tears, so was there in the
steadiness of this agonized man an expression deeper
than a cry.





Far From The Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
Category:
English Literature
 
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