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"THE most private, secret, plainest wedding that it is
possible to have."
Those had been Bathsheba's words to Oak one
evening, some time after the event of the preceding
chapter, and he meditated a full hour by the clock upon
how to carry out her wishes to the letter.
"A licence -- O yes, it must be a licence." he said
to himself at last. "Very well, then; first, a license."
On a dark night, a few days later, Oak came with
mysterious steps from the surrogate's door, in Caster-
bridge. On the way home he heard a heavy tread in
front of him, and, overtaking the man, found him to be
Coggan. They walked together into the village until
they came to a little lane behind the church, leading
down to the cottage of Laban Tall, who had lately been
installed as clerk of the parish, and was yet in mortal
terror at church on Sundays when he heard his lone
voice among certain hard words of the Psalms, whither
no man ventured to follow him.
"Well, good-night, Coggan." said Oak, "I'm going
down this way."
"Oh!" said Coggan, surprised; "what's going on to-
night then, make so bold Mr. Oak?"
It seemed rather ungenerous not to tell Coggan,
under the circumstances, for Coggan had been true as
steel all through the time of Gabriel's unhappiness about
Bathsheba, and Gabriel said, " You can keep a secret,
"You've proved me, and you know."
"Yes, I have, and I do know. Well, then, mistress
and I mean to get married to-morrow morning."
"Heaven's high tower! And yet I've thought of
such a thing from time to time; true, I have. But
keeping it so close! Well, there, 'tis no consarn of
amine, and I wish 'ee joy o' her."
"Thank you, Coggan. But I assure 'ee that this
great hush is not what I wished for at all, or what
either of us would have wished if it hadn't been for
certain things that would make a gay wedding seem
hardly the thing. Bathsheba has a great wish that all
the parish shall not be in church, looking at her -- she's
shylike and nervous about it, in fact -- so I be doing
this to humour her."
"Ay, I see: quite right, too, I suppose I must say.
And you be now going down to the clerk."
"Yes; you may as well come with me."
"I am afeard your labour in keeping it close will be
throwed away." said Coggan, as they walked along.
"Labe Tall's old woman will horn it all over parish in
half-an-hour. "
"So she will, upon my life; I never thought of
that." said Oak, pausing. "Yet I must tell him to-
night, I suppose, for he's working so far off, and leaves
"I'll tell 'ee how we could tackle her." said Coggan.
"I'll knock and ask to speak to Laban outside the door,
you standing in the background. Then he'll come out,
and you can tell yer tale. She'll never guess what I
want en for; and I'll make up a few words about the
farm-work, as a blind."
This scheme was considered feasible; and Coggan
advanced boldly, and rapped at Mrs. Tall's door. Mrs.
Tall herself opened it.
"I wanted to have a word with Laban."
"He's not at home, and won't be this side of eleven
o'clock. He've been forced to go over to Yalbury since
shutting out work. I shall do quite as well."
"I hardly think you will. Stop a moment;" and
Coggan stepped round the corner of the porch to consult
"Who's t'other man, then?" said Mrs. Tall.
"Only a friend." said Coggan.
"Say he's wanted to meet mistress near church-hatch
to-morrow morning at ten." said Oak, in a whisper.
"That he must come without fail, and wear his best
"The clothes will floor us as safe as houses!" said Coggan.
"It can't be helped said Oak. "Tell her."
So Coggan delivered the message. "Mind, het or
wet, blow or snow, he must come, added Jan. "'Tis
very particular, indeed. The fact is, 'tis to witness her
sign some law-work about taking shares wi' another
farmer for a long span o' years. There, that's what 'tis,
and now I've told 'ee, Mother Tall, in a way I shouldn't
ha' done if I hadn't loved 'ee so hopeless well."
Coggan retired before she could ask any further;
and next they called at the vicar's in a manner which
excited no curiosity at all. Then Gabriel went home,
and prepared for the morrow.
"Liddy." said Bathsheba, on going to bed that night,
"I want you to call me at seven o'clock to-morrow, In
case I shouldn't wake."
"But you always do wake afore then, ma'am."
"Yes, but I have something important to do, which
I'll tell you of when the time comes, and it's best to
make sure."
Bathsheba, however, awoke voluntarily at four, nor
could she by any contrivance get to sleep again. About
six, being quite positive that her watch had stopped
during the night, she could wait no longer. She went
and tapped at Liddy's door, and after some labour awoke
"But I thought it was I who had to call you?" said
the bewildered Liddy. "And it isn't six yet."
Indeed it is; how can you tell such a story, Liddy?
I know it must be ever so much past seven. Come to
my room as soon as you can; I want you to give my
hair a good brushing."
When Liddy came to Bathsheba's room her mistress
was already waiting. Liddy could not understand
this extraordinary promptness. "Whatever IS going on,
ma'am?" she said.
"Well, I'll tell you." said Bathsheba, with a mischiev-
ous smile in her bright eyes. "Farmer Oak is coming
here to dine with me to-day!"
"Farmer Oak -- and nobody else? -- you two alone?"
"But is it safe, ma'am, after what's been said?" asked
her companion, dubiously. "A woman's good name is
such a perishable article that -- -- "
Bathsheba laughed with a flushed cheek, and
whispered in Liddy's ear, although there was nobody
present. Then Liddy stared and exclaimed, " Souls
alive, what news! It makes my heart go quite
"It makes mine rather furious, too." said Bathsheba.
"However, there's no getting out of it now!"
It was a damp disagreeable morning. Nevertheless,
at twenty minutes to ten o'clock, Oak came out of his
house, and
Went up the hill side
With that sort of stride
A man puts out when walking in search of a bride,
and knocked Bathsheba's door. Ten minutes later
a large and a smaller umbrella might have been seen
moving from the same door, and through the mist along
the road to the church. The distance was not more
than a quarter of a mile, and these two sensible persons
deemed it unnecessary to drive. An observer must have
been very close indeed to discover that the forms under
the umbrellas were those of Oak and Bathsheba, arm-in-
arm for the first time in their lives, Oak in a greatcoat
extending to his knees, and Bathsheba in a cloak that
reached her clogs. Yet, though so plainly dressed
there was a certain rejuvenated appearance about her: --
As though a rose should shut and be a bud again.
Repose had again incarnadined her cheeks; and having,
at Gabriel's request, arranged her hair this morning as
she had worn it years ago on Norcombe Hill, she seemed
in his eyes remarkably like a girl of that fascinating
dream, which, considering that she was now only three
or four-and-twenty, was perhaps not very wonderful. In
the church were Tall, Liddy, and the parson, and in a
remarkably short space of time the deed was done.
The two sat down very quietly to tea in Bathsheba's
parlour in the evening of the same day, for it had been
arranged that Farmer Oak should go there to live, since
he had as yet neither money, house, nor furniture worthy
of the name, though he was on a sure way towards them,
whilst Bathsheba was, comparatively, in a plethora of all
Just as Bathsheba was pouring out a cup of tea,
their ears were greeted by the firing of a cannon,
followed by what seemed like a tremendous blowing of
trumpets, in the front of the house.
"There!" said Oak, laughing, "I knew those fellows
were up to something, by the look on their face; "
Oak took up the light and went into the porch,
followed by Bathsheba with a shawl over her head. The
rays fell upon a group of male figures gathered upon the
gravel in front, who, when they saw the newly-married
couple in the porch, set up a loud "Hurrah!" and at
the same moment bang again went the cannon in the
background, followed by a hideous clang of music from
a drum, tambourine, clarionet, serpent, hautboy, tenor-
viol, and double-bass -- the only remaining relics of the
true and original Weatherbury band -- venerable worm-
eaten instruments, which had celebrated in their own
persons the victories of Marlhorough, under the fingers
of the forefathers of those who played them now. The
performers came forward, and marched up to the
"Those bright boys, Mark Clark and Jan, are at the
bottom of all this." said Oak. "Come in, souls, and
have something to eat and drink wi' me and my wife."
"Not to-night." said Mr. Clark, with evident self-
denial. "Thank ye all the same; but we'll call at a
more seemly time. However, we couldn't think of
letting the day pass without a note of admiration of
some sort. If ye could send a drop of som'at down to
Warren's, why so it is. Here's long life and happiness
to neighbour Oak and his comely bride!"
"Thank ye; thank ye all." said Gabriel. "A bit and
a drop shall be sent to Warren's for ye at once. I had
a thought that we might very likely get a salute of some
sort from our old friends, and I was saying so to my
wife but now."
"Faith." said Coggan, in a critical tone, turning to his
companions, "the man hev learnt to say "my wife"
in a wonderful naterel way, considering how very youth-
ful he is in wedlock as yet -- hey, neighbours all?"
"I never heerd a skilful old married feller of twenty
years" standing pipe "my wife" in a more used note
than 'a did." said Jacob Smallbury. "It might have been
a little more true to nater if't had been spoke a little
chillier, but that wasn't to be expected just now.
"That improvement will come wi' time." said Jan,
twirling his eye.
Then Oak laughed, and Bathsheba smiled (for she
never laughed readily now), and their friends turned to
"Yes; I suppose that's the size o't." said Joseph
Poorgrass with a cheerful sigh as they moved away;
"and I wish him joy o' her; though I were once or
twice upon saying to-day with holy Hosea, in my
scripture manner, which is my second nature. "Ephraim
is joined to idols: let him alone." But since 'tis as 'tis
why, it might have been worse, and I feel my thanks

The End

Far From The Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
English Literature
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