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CHAPTER XLI



SUSPICION -- FANNY IS SENT FOR


BATHSHEBA said very little to her husband all that
evening of their return from market, and he was not
disposed to say much to her. He exhibited the un-
pleasant combination of a restless condition with a
silent tongue. The next day, which was Sunday, passed
nearly in the same manner as regarded their taciturnity,
Bathsheba going to church both morning and afternoon.
This was the day before the Budmouth races. In the
evening Troy said, suddenly --
"Bathsheba, could you let me have twenty pounds?"
Her countenance instantly sank." Twenty pounds?
she said.
"The fact is, I want it badly." The anxiety upon
Troy's face was unusual and very marked. lt was a
culmination of the mood he had been in all the day.
"Ah! for those races to-morrow."
Troy for the moment made no reply. Her mistake
had its advantages to a man who shrank from having
his mind inspected as he did now. "Well, suppose I
do want it for races?" he said, at last.
"O, Frank!" Bathsheba replied, and there was such
a volume of entreaty in the words. "Only such a few
weeks ago you said that I was far sweeter than all your
other pleasures put together, and that you would give
them all up for me; and now, won't you give up this
one, which is more a worry than a pleasure? Do,
Frank. Come, let me fascinate you by all I can do
-- by pretty words and pretty looks, and everything I
can think of -- to stay at home. Say yes to your wife --
say yes!"
The tenderest and softest phases of Bathsheba's
nature were prominent now -- advanced impulsively for
his acceptance, without any of the disguises and defences
which the wariness of her character when she was cool
too frequently threw over them. Few men could have
resisted the arch yet dignified entreaty of the beautiful
face, thrown a little back and sideways in the well
known attitude that expresses more than the words it
accompanies, and which seems to have been designed
for these special occasions. Had the woman not been
his wife, Troy would have succumbed instantly; as it
was, he thought he would not deceive her longer.
"The money is not wanted for racing debts at all,"
he said.
"What is it for?" she asked. "You worry me a great
deal by these mysterious responsibilities, Frank."
Troy hesitated. He did not now love her enough
to allow himself to be carried too far by her ways. Yet
it was necessary to be civil. "You wrong me by such
a suspicious manner, he said. "Such strait-waistcoating
as you treat me to is not becoming in you at so early a
date."
"I think that I have a right to grumble a little if I
pay." she said, with features between a smile and a
pout.
Exactly; and, the former being done, suppose we
proceed to the latter. Bathsheba, fun is all very well,
but don't go too far, or you may have cause to regret
something."
She reddened. "I do that already." she said, quickly
"What do you regret?"
SUSPICION
"That my romance has come to an end."
"All romances end at marriage."
"I wish you wouldn't talk like that. You grieve me
to my soul by being smart at my expense."
"You are dull enough at mine. I believe you hate
me."
"Not you -- only your faults. I do hate them."
"'Twould be much more becoming if you set your-
self to cure them. Come, let's strike a balance with
the twenty pounds, and be friends."
She gave a sigh of resignation. "I have about that
sum here for household expenses. If you must have it,
take it."
"Very good. Thank you. I expect I shall have
gone away before you are in to breakfast to-morrow."
"And must you go? Ah! there was a time, Frank,
when it would have taken a good many promises to
other people to drag you away from me. You used to
call me darling, then. But it doesn't matter to you how
my days are passed now."
"I must go, in spite of sentiment." Troy, as he
spoke, looked at his watch, and, apparently actuated by
NON LUCENDO principles, opened the case at the back,
revealing, snugly stowed within it, a small coil of hair.
Bathsheba's eyes had been accidentally lifted at that
moment, and she saw the action and saw the hair. She
flushed in pain and surprise, and some words escaped
her before she had thought whether or not it was wise
to utter them. "A woman's curl of hair!" she said.
"O, Frank, whose is that?"
Troy had instantly closed his watch. He carelessly
replied, as one who cloaked some feelings that the sight
had stirred." Why, yours, of course. Whose should it
be? I had quite forgotten that I had it."
"What a dreadful fib, Frank!"
"I tell you I had forgotten it!" he said, loudly.
"I don't mean that -- it was yellow hair."
"Nonsense."
"That's insulting me. I know it was yellow. Now
whose was it? I want to know."
"Very well I'll tell you, so make no more ado. It
is the hair of a young woman I was going to marry
before I knew you."
"You ought to tell me her name, then."
"I cannot do that."
"Is she married yet?"
"No."
"Is she alive?"
"Yes."
"Is she pretty?"
"Yes."
"It is wonderful how she can be, poor thing, under
such an awful affliction!"
"Affliction -- what affliction?" he inquired, quickly.
"Having hair of that dreadful colour."
"Oh -- ho-i like that!" said Troy, recovering him-
self. "Why, her hair has been admired by everybody
who has seen her since she has worn it loose, which has
not been long. It is beautiful hair. People used to
turn their heads to look at it, poor girl!"
"Pooh! that's nothing -- that's nothing!" she ex-
claimed, in incipient accents of pique. "If I cared for
your love as much as I used to I could say people had
turned to look at mine."
"Bathsheba, don't be so fitful and jealous. You
knew what married life would be like, and shouldn't
have entered it if you feared these contingencies."
Troy had by this time driven her to bitterness: her
heart was big in her throat, and the ducts to her eyes
were painfully full. Ashamed as she was to show
emotion, at last she burst out: --
"This is all I get for loving you so well! Ah! when
I married you your life was dearer to me than my own.
I would have died for you -- how truly I can say that I
would have died for you! And now you sneer at my
foolishness in marrying you. O! is it kind to me to
throw my mistake in my face? Whatever opinion you
may have of my wisdom, you should not tell me of it so
mercilessly, now that I am in your power."
"I can't help how things fall out." said Troy; "upon
my heart, women will be the death of me!"
"Well you shouldn't keep people's hair. You'll
burn it, won't you, Frank?"
Frank went on as if he had not heard her. "There
are considerations even before my consideration for you;
reparations to be made -- ties you know nothing of If
you repent of marrying, so do I."
Trembling now, she put her hand upon his arm,
saying, in mingled tones of wretchedness and coaxing,
"I only repent it if you don't love me better than any
woman in the world! I don't otherwise, Frank. You
don't repent because you already love somebody better
than you love me, do you?"
"I don't know. Why do you say that?"
"You won't burn that curl. You like the woman
who owns that pretty hair -- yes; it is pretty -- more
beautiful than my miserable black mane! Well, it is
no use; I can't help being ugly. You must like her
best, if you will!"
"Until to-day, when I took it from a drawer, I have
never looked upon that bit of hair for several months --
that I am ready to swear."
"But just now you said "ties;" and then -- that
woman we met?"
"'Twas the meeting with her that reminded me of
the hair."
"Is it hers, then?"
"Yes. There, now that you have wormed it out of
me, I hope you are content."
"And what are the ties?"
"Oh! that meant nothing -- a mere jest."
"A mere jest!" she said, in mournful astonishment.
"Can you jest when I am so wretchedly in earnest?
Tell me the truth, Frank. I am not a fool, you know,
although I am a woman, and have my woman's moments.
Come! treat me fairly." she said, looking honestly and
fearlessly into his face. "I don't want much; bare
justice -- that's all! Ah! once I felt I could be content
with nothing less than the highest homage from the
husband I should choose. Now, anything short of
cruelty will content me. Yes! the independent and
spirited Bathsheba is come to this!"
"For Heaven's sake don't be so desperate!"Troy
said, snappishly, rising as he did so, and leaving the
room.
Directly he had gone, Bathsheba burst into great
sobs -- dry-eyed sobs, which cut as they came, without
any softening by tears. But she determined to repress
all evidences of feeling. She was conquered; but she
would never own it as long as she lived. Her pride
was indeed brought low by despairing discoveries of her
spoliation by marriage with a less pure nature than her
own. She chafed to and fro in rebelliousness, like a
caged leopard; her whole soul was in arms, and the
blood fired her face. Until she had met Troy, Bath-
sheba had been proud of her position as a woman; it
had been a glory to her to know that her lips had been
touched by no man's on earth -- that her waist had
never been encircled by a lover's arm. She hated
herself now. In those earlier days she had always
nourished a secret contempt for girls who were the
slaves of the first goodlooking young fellow who should
choose to salute them. She had never taken kindly to
the idea of marriage in the abstract as did the majority
of women she saw about her. In the turmoil of her
anxiety for her lover she had agreed to marry him; but
the perception that had accompanied her happiest hours
on this account was rather that of self-sacrifice than of
promotion and honour. Although she scarcely knew
the divinity's name, Diana was the goddess whom
Bathsheba instinctively adored. That she had never,
by look, word, or sign, encouraged a man to approach
her -- that she had felt herself sufficient to herself, and
had in the independence of her girlish heart fancied
there was a certain degradation in renouncing the
simplicity of a maiden existence to become the humbler
half of an indifferent matrimonial whole -- were facts
now bitterly remembered. O, if she had never
stooped to folly of this kind, respectable as it was, and
could only stand again, as she had stood on the hill at
Norcombe, and dare Troy or any other man to pollute
a hair of her head by his interference!
The next morning she rose earlier than usual, and
had the horse saddled for her ride round the farm in
the customary way. When she came in at half-past
eight -- their usual hour for breakfasting -- she was in-
formed that her husband had risen, taken his breakfast,
and driven off to Casterbridge with the gig and Poppet.
After breakfast she was cool and collected -- quite
herself in fact -- and she rambled to the gate, intending
to walk to another quarter of the farm, which she still
personally superintended as well as her duties in the
house would permit, continually, however, finding her-
self preceded in forethought by Gabriel Oak, for whom
she began to entertain the genuine friendship of a sister.
Of course, she sometimes thought of him in the light of
an old lover, and had momentary imaginings of what
life with him as a husband would have been like; also
of life with Boldwood under the same conditions. But
Bathsheba, though she could feel, was not much given
to futile dreaming, and her musings under this head
were short and entirely confined to the times when
Troy's neglect was more than ordinarily evident.
She saw coming up the road a man like Mr. Boldwood.
It was Mr. Boldwood. Bathsheba blushed painfully,
and watched. The farmer stopped when still a long
way off, and held up his hand to Gabriel Oak, who was
in a footpath across the field. The two men then
approached each other and seemed to engage in
earnest conversation.
Thus they continued for a long time. Joseph Poor-
grass now passed near them, wheeling a barrow of apples
up the hill to Bathsheba's residence. Boldwood and
Gabriel called to him, spoke to him for a few minutes,
and then all three parted, Joseph immediately coming
up the hill with his barrow.
Bathsheba, who had seen this pantomime with some
surprise, experienced great relief when Boldwood turned
back again. "Well, what's the message, Joseph?" she
said.
He set down his barrow, and, putting upon himself
the refined aspect that a conversation with a lady re-
quired, spoke to Bathsheba over the gate.
"You'll never see Fanny Robin no more -- use nor
principal -- ma'am."
"Why?"
"Because she's dead in the Union."
"Fanny dead -- never!"
"Yes, ma'am."
"What did she die from?"
"I don't know for certain; but I should be inclined
to think it was from general weakness of constitution.
She was such a limber maid that 'a could stand no
hardship, even when I knowed her, and 'a went like a
candle-snoff, so 'tis said. She was took bad in the
morning, and, being quite feeble and worn out, she
died in the evening. She belongs by law to our parish;
and Mr. Boldwood is going to send a waggon at three
this afternoon to fetch her home here and bury her."
"Indeed I shall not let Mr. Boldwood do any such
thing-i shall do it! Fanny was my uncle's servant,
and, although I only knew her for a couple of days,
FANNY IS SENT FOR
she belongs to me. How very, very sad this is! --
the idea of Fanny being in a workhouse." Bathsheba
had begun to know what suffering was, and she spoke
with real feeling.... "Send across to Mr. Boldwood's,
and say that Mrs. Troy will take upon herself the duty
of fetching an old servant of the family.... We
ought not to put her in a waggon; we'll get a hearse."
"There will hardly be time, ma'am, will there?"
"Perhaps not." she said, musingly. "When did you
say we must be at the door -- three o'clock?"
"Three o'clock this afternoon, ma'am, so to speak it."
"Very well-you go with it. A pretty waggon is
better than an ugly hearse, after all. Joseph, have the
new spring waggon with the blue body and red wheels,
and wash it very clean. And, Joseph -- -- "
"Yes, ma'am."
"Carry with you some evergreens and flowers to put
upon her coffin -- indeed, gather a great many, and
completely bury her in them. Get some boughs of
laurustinus, and variegated box, and yew, and boy'siove;
ay, and some hunches of chrysanthemum. And let old
Pleasant draw her, because she knew him so well."I will, ma'am. I ought
to have said that the
Union, in the form of four labouring men, will meet me
when I gets to our churchyard gate, and take her and
bury her according to the rites of the Board of Guardians,
as by law ordained."
"Dear me -- Casterbridge Union -- and is Fanny come
to this?" said Bathsheba, musing. "I wish I had known
of it sooner. I thought she was far away. How long
has she lived there?"
"On'y been there a day or two."
"Oh! -- then she has not been staying there as a
regular inmate?"
"No. She first went to live in a garrison-town t'other
side o' Wessex, and since then she's been picking up a
living at seampstering in Melchester for several months,
at the house of a very respectable widow-woman who
takes in work of that sort. She only got handy the
Union-house on Sunday morning 'a b'lieve, and 'tis sup-
posed here and there that she had traipsed every step
of the way from Melchester. Why she left her place,
I can't say, for I don't know; and as to a lie, why, I
wouldn't tell it. That's the short of the story, ma'am."
"Ah-h!"
No gem ever flashed from a rosy ray to a white one
more rapidly than changed the young wife's counten-
ance whilst this word came from her in a long-drawn
breath. "Did she walk along our turnpike-road?" she
said, in a suddenly restless and eager voice.
"I believe she did.... Ma'am, shall I call Liddy?
You bain't well, ma'am, surely? You look like a lily --
so pale and fainty!"
"No; don't call her; it is nothing. When did she
pass Weatherbury?"
"Last Saturday night."
"That will do, Joseph; now you may go."
Certainly, ma'am."
"Joseph, come hither a moment. What was the
colour of Fanny Robin's hair?"
"Really, mistress, now that 'tis put to me so judge-
and-jury like, I can't call to mind, if ye'll believe me!"
"Never mind; go on and do what I told you. Stop
-- well no, go on."
She turned herself away from him, that he might no
longer notice the mood which had set its sign so visibly
upon her, and went indoors with a distressing sense of
faintness and a beating brow. About an hour after, she
heard the noise of the waggon and went out, still with a
painful consciousness of her bewildered and troubled
look. Joseph, dressed in his best suit of clothes, was
putting in the horse to start. The shrubs and flowers
were all piled in the waggon, as she had directed
Bathsheba hardly saw them now.
"Whose sweetheart did you say, Joseph?"
"I don't know, ma'am."
"Are you quite sure?"
"Yes, ma'am, quite sure."Sure of what?"
"I'm sure that all I know is that she arrived in the
morning and died in the evening without further parley.
What Oak and Mr. Boldwood told me was only these
few words. `Little Fanny Robin is dead, Joseph,'
Gabriel said, looking in my face in his steady old way.
I was very sorry, and I said, `Ah! -- and how did she
come to die?' `Well, she's dead in Casterhridge
Union,' he said, `and perhaps 'tisn't much matter
about how she came to die. She reached the Union
early Sunday morning, and died in the afternoon -- that's
clear enough.' Then I asked what she'd been doing
lately, and Mr. Boldwood turned round to me then, and
left off spitting a thistle with the end of his stick. He
told me about her having lived by seampstering in
Melchester, as I mentioned to you, and that she walked
therefrom at the end of last week, passing near here
Saturday night in the dusk. They then said I had
better just name a hint of her death to you, and away
they went. Her death might have been brought on by
biding in the night wind, you know, ma'am; for people
used to say she'd go off in a decline: she used to cough
a good deal in winter time. However, 'tisn't much
odds to us about that now, for 'tis all over."
"Have you heard a different story at all?' She
looked at him so intently that Joseph's eyes quailed.
"Not a word, mistress, I assure 'ee!" he said.
"Hardly anybody in the parish knows the news yet."
"I wonder why Gabriel didn't bring the message to
me himself. He mostly makes a point of seeing me
upon the most trifling errand." These words were
merely murmured, and she was looking upon the ground.
"Perhaps he was busy, ma'am." Joseph suggested.
"And sometimes he seems to suffer from things upon
his mind, connected with the time when he was better
off than 'a is now. 'A's rather a curious item, but a
very understanding shepherd, and learned in books."
"Did anything seem upon his mind whilst he was
speaking to you about this?"
"I cannot but say that there did, ma'am. He was
terrible down, and so was Farmer Boldwood."
"Thank you, Joseph. That will do. Go on now,
or you'll be late."
Bathsheba, still unhappy, went indoors again. In
the course of the afternoon she said to Liddy, Who had
been informed of the occurrence, " What was the colour
of poor Fanny Robin's hair? Do you know? I cannot
recollect-i only saw her for a day or two."
"It was light, ma'am; but she wore it rather short,
and packed away under her cap, so that you would
hardly notice it. But I have seen her let it down when
she was going to bed, and it looked beautiful then.
Real golden hair."
"Her young man was a soldier, was he not?"
"Yes. In the same regiment as Mr. Troy. He says
he knew him very well."What, Mr. Troy says so? How came he to say
that?"
"One day I just named it to him, and asked him if
he knew Fanny's young man. He said, "O yes, he
knew the young man as well as he knew himself, and
that there wasn't a man in the regiment he liked
better."
"Ah! Said that, did he?"
"Yes; and he said there was a strong likeness be-
tween himself and the other young man, so that some-
times people mistook them -- -- "
"Liddy, for Heaven's sake stop your talking!" said
Bathsheba, with the nervous petulance that comes from
worrying perceptions.





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