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CHAPTER 10.


While she still sat under the Scotchman's eyes a man came up
to the door, reaching it as Henchard opened the door of the
inner office to admit Elizabeth. The newcomer stepped
forward like the quicker cripple at Bethesda, and entered in
her stead. She could hear his words to Henchard: "Joshua
Jopp, sir--by appointment--the new manager."

"The new manager!--he's in his office," said Henchard
bluntly.

"In his office!" said the man, with a stultified air.

"I mentioned Thursday," said Henchard; "and as you did not
keep your appointment, I have engaged another manager. At
first I thought he must be you. Do you think I can wait
when business is in question?"

"You said Thursday or Saturday, sir," said the newcomer,
pulling out a letter.

"Well, you are too late," said the corn-factor. "I can say
no more."

"You as good as engaged me," murmured the man.

"Subject to an interview," said Henchard. "I am sorry for
you--very sorry indeed. But it can't be helped."

There was no more to be said, and the man came out,
encountering Elizabeth-Jane in his passage. She could see
that his mouth twitched with anger, and that bitter
disappointment was written in his face everywhere.

Elizabeth-Jane now entered, and stood before the master of
the premises. His dark pupils--which always seemed to have
a red spark of light in them, though this could hardly be a
physical fact--turned indifferently round under his dark
brows until they rested on her figure. "Now then, what is
it, my young woman?" he said blandly.

"Can I speak to you--not on business, sir?" said she.

"Yes--I suppose." He looked at her more thoughtfully.

"I am sent to tell you, sir," she innocently went on, "that
a distant relative of yours by marriage, Susan Newson, a
sailor's widow, is in the town, and to ask whether you would
wish to see her."

The rich rouge-et-noir of his countenance underwent a
slight change. "Oh--Susan is--still alive?" he asked with
difficulty.

"Yes, sir."

"Are you her daughter?"

"Yes, sir--her only daughter."

"What--do you call yourself--your Christian name?"

"Elizabeth-Jane, sir."

"Newson?"

"Elizabeth-Jane Newson."

This at once suggested to Henchard that the transaction of
his early married life at Weydon Fair was unrecorded in the
family history. It was more than he could have expected.
His wife had behaved kindly to him in return for his
unkindness, and had never proclaimed her wrong to her child
or to the world.

"I am--a good deal interested in your news," he said. "And
as this is not a matter of business, but pleasure, suppose
we go indoors."

It was with a gentle delicacy of manner, surprising to
Elizabeth, that he showed her out of the office and through
the outer room, where Donald Farfrae was overhauling bins
and samples with the inquiring inspection of a beginner in
charge. Henchard preceded her through the door in the wall
to the suddenly changed scene of the garden and flowers, and
onward into the house. The dining-room to which he
introduced her still exhibited the remnants of the lavish
breakfast laid for Farfrae. It was furnished to profusion
with heavy mahogany furniture of the deepest red-Spanish
hues. Pembroke tables, with leaves hanging so low that they
well-nigh touched the floor, stood against the walls on legs
and feet shaped like those of an elephant, and on one lay
three huge folio volumes--a Family Bible, a "Josephus," and
a "Whole Duty of Man." In the chimney comer was a fire-grate
with a fluted semicircular back, having urns and festoons
cast in relief thereon, and the chairs were of the kind
which, since that day, has cast lustre upon the names of
Chippendale and Sheraton, though, in point of fact, their
patterns may have been such as those illustrious carpenters
never saw or heard of.

"Sit down--Elizabeth-Jane--sit down," he said, with a shake
in his voice as he uttered her name, and sitting down
himself he allowed his hands to hang between his knees while
he looked upon the carpet. "Your mother, then, is quite
well?"

"She is rather worn out, sir, with travelling."

"A sailor's widow--when did he die?"

"Father was lost last spring."

Henchard winced at the word "father," thus applied. "Do you
and she come from abroad--America or Australia?" he asked.

"No. We have been in England some years. I was twelve when
we came here from Canada."

"Ah; exactly." By such conversation he discovered the
circumstances which had enveloped his wife and her child in
such total obscurity that he had long ago believed them to
be in their graves. These things being clear, he returned
to the present. "And where is your mother staying?"

"At the Three Mariners."

"And you are her daughter Elizabeth-Jane?" repeated
Henchard. He arose, came close to her, and glanced in her
face. "I think," he said, suddenly turning away with a wet
eye, "you shall take a note from me to your mother. I
should like to see her....She is not left very well off by
her late husband?" His eye fell on Elizabeth's clothes,
which, though a respectable suit of black, and her very
best, were decidedly old-fashioned even to Casterbridge
eyes.

"Not very well," she said, glad that he had divined this
without her being obliged to express it.

He sat down at the table and wrote a few lines, next taking
from his pocket-book a five-pound note, which he put in the
envelope with the letter, adding to it, as by an
afterthought, five shillings. Sealing the whole up
carefully, he directed it to "Mrs. Newson, Three Mariners
Inn," and handed the packet to Elizabeth.

"Deliver it to her personally, please," said Henchard.
"Well, I am glad to see you here, Elizabeth-Jane--very glad.
We must have a long talk together--but not just now."

He took her hand at parting, and held it so warmly that she,
who had known so little friendship, was much affected, and
tears rose to her aerial-grey eyes. The instant that she
was gone Henchard's state showed itself more distinctly;
having shut the door he sat in his dining-room stiffly
erect, gazing at the opposite wall as if he read his history
there.

"Begad!" he suddenly exclaimed, jumping up. "I didn't think
of that. Perhaps these are impostors--and Susan and the
child dead after all!"

However, a something in Elizabeth-Jane soon assured him
that, as regarded her, at least, there could be little
doubt. And a few hours would settle the question of her
mother's identity; for he had arranged in his note to see
her that evening.

"It never rains but it pours!" said Henchard. His keenly
excited interest in his new friend the Scotchman was now
eclipsed by this event, and Donald Farfrae saw so little of
him during the rest of the day that he wondered at the
suddenness of his employer's moods.

In the meantime Elizabeth had reached the inn. Her mother,
instead of taking the note with the curiosity of a poor
woman expecting assistance, was much moved at sight of it.
She did not read it at once, asking Elizabeth to describe
her reception, and the very words Mr. Henchard used.
Elizabeth's back was turned when her mother opened the
letter. It ran thus:--


"Meet me at eight o'clock this evening, if you can, at the
Ring on the Budmouth road. The place is easy to find. I
can say no more now. The news upsets me almost. The girl
seems to be in ignorance. Keep her so till I have seen you.
M. H."


He said nothing about the enclosure of five guineas. The
amount was significant; it may tacitly have said to her that
he bought her back again. She waited restlessly for the
close of the day, telling Elizabeth-Jane that she was
invited to see Mr. Henchard; that she would go alone. But
she said nothing to show that the place of meeting was not
at his house, nor did she hand the note to Elizabeth.



The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy
Category:
English Classics
Book Review:
Thomas Hardy’s masterpiece "The Mayor of Casterbridge" proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that “character is destiny”, and in writing it Hardy proved that a tragedy can be one of the most enjoyable forms of literature. As in ancient Greek tragedies, the protagonist of
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