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CHAPTER 22.


We go back for a moment to the preceding night, to account
for Henchard's attitude.

At the hour when Elizabeth-Jane was contemplating her
stealthy reconnoitring excursion to the abode of the lady of
her fancy, he had been not a little amazed at receiving a
letter by hand in Lucetta's well-known characters. The
self-repression, the resignation of her previous
communication had vanished from her mood; she wrote with
some of the natural lightness which had marked her in their
early acquaintance.


HIGH-PLACE HALL

MY DEAR MR. HENCHARD,--Don't be surprised. It is for your
good and mine, as I hope, that I have come to live at
Casterbridge--for how long I cannot tell. That depends upon
another; and he is a man, and a merchant, and a Mayor, and
one who has the first right to my affections.

Seriously, mon ami, I am not so light-hearted as I may
seem to be from this. I have come here in consequence of
hearing of the death of your wife--whom you used to think of
as dead so many years before! Poor woman, she seems to have
been a sufferer, though uncomplaining, and though weak in
intellect not an imbecile. I am glad you acted fairly by
her. As soon as I knew she was no more, it was brought home
to me very forcibly by my conscience that I ought to
endeavour to disperse the shade which my etourderie
flung over my name, by asking you to carry out your promise
to me. I hope you are of the same mind, and that you will
take steps to this end. As, however, I did not know how you
were situated, or what had happened since our separation, I
decided to come and establish myself here before
communicating with you.

You probably feel as I do about this. I shall be able to
see you in a day or two. Till then, farewell.--Yours,

LUCETTA .

P.S.--I was unable to keep my appointment to meet you for a
moment or two in passing through Casterbridge the other day.
My plans were altered by a family event, which it will
surprise you to hear of.


Henchard had already heard that High-Place Hall was being
prepared for a tenant. He said with a puzzled air to the
first person he encountered, "Who is coming to live at the
Hall?"

"A lady of the name of Templeman, I believe, sir," said his
informant.

Henchard thought it over. "Lucetta is related to her, I
suppose," he said to himself. "Yes, I must put her in her
proper position, undoubtedly."

It was by no means with the oppression that would once have
accompanied the thought that he regarded the moral necessity
now; it was, indeed, with interest, if not warmth. His
bitter disappointment at finding Elizabeth-Jane to be none
of his, and himself a childless man, had left an emotional
void in Henchard that he unconsciously craved to fill. In
this frame of mind, though without strong feeling, he had
strolled up the alley and into High-Place Hall by the
postern at which Elizabeth had so nearly encountered him.
He had gone on thence into the court, and inquired of a man
whom he saw unpacking china from a crate if Miss Le Sueur
was living there. Miss Le Sueur had been the name under
which he had known Lucetta--or "Lucette," as she had called
herself at that time.

The man replied in the negative; that Miss Templeman only
had come. Henchard went away, concluding that Lucetta had
not as yet settled in.

He was in this interested stage of the inquiry when he
witnessed Elizabeth-Jane's departure the next day. On
hearing her announce the address there suddenly took
possession of him the strange thought that Lucetta and Miss
Templeman were one and the same person, for he could recall
that in her season of intimacy with him the name of the rich
relative whom he had deemed somewhat a mythical personage
had been given as Templeman. Though he was not a fortune-
hunter, the possibility that Lucetta had been sublimed into
a lady of means by some munificent testament on the part of
this relative lent a charm to her image which it might not
otherwise have acquired. He was getting on towards the dead
level of middle age, when material things increasingly
possess the mind.

But Henchard was not left long in suspense. Lucetta was
rather addicted to scribbling, as had been shown by the
torrent of letters after the fiasco in their marriage
arrangements, and hardly had Elizabeth gone away when
another note came to the Mayor's house from High-Place Hall.


"I am in residence," she said, "and comfortable, though
getting here has been a wearisome undertaking. You probably
know what I am going to tell you, or do you not? My good
Aunt Templeman, the banker's widow, whose very existence you
used to doubt, much more her affluence, has lately died, and
bequeathed some of her property to me. I will not enter
into details except to say that I have taken her name--as a
means of escape from mine, and its wrongs.

"I am now my own mistress, and have chosen to reside in
Casterbridge--to be tenant of High-Place Hall, that at least
you may be put to no trouble if you wish to see me. My
first intention was to keep you in ignorance of the changes
in my life till you should meet me in the street; but I have
thought better of this.

"You probably are aware of my arrangement with your
daughter, and have doubtless laughed at the--what shall I
call it?--practical joke (in all affection) of my getting
her to live with me. But my first meeting with her was
purely an accident. Do you see, Michael, partly why I have
done it?--why, to give you an excuse for coming here as if
to visit HER, and thus to form my acquaintance
naturally. She is a dear, good girl, and she thinks you
have treated her with undue severity. You may have done so
in your haste, but not deliberately, I am sure. As the
result has been to bring her to me I am not disposed to
upbraid you.--In haste, yours always,

LUCETTA.


The excitement which these announcements produced in
Henchard's gloomy soul was to him most pleasurable. He sat
over his dining-table long and dreamily, and by an almost
mechanical transfer the sentiments which had run to waste
since his estrangement from Elizabeth-Jane and Donald
Farfrae gathered around Lucetta before they had grown dry.
She was plainly in a very coming-on disposition for
marriage. But what else could a poor woman be who had given
her time and her heart to him so thoughtlessly, at that
former time, as to lose her credit by it? Probably
conscience no less than affection had brought her here. On
the whole he did not blame her.

"The artful little woman!" he said, smiling (with reference
to Lucetta's adroit and pleasant manoeuvre with Elizabeth-
Jane).

To feel that he would like to see Lucetta was with Henchard
to start for her house. He put on his hat and went. It was
between eight and nine o'clock when he reached her door.
The answer brought him was that Miss Templeman was engaged
for that evening; but that she would be happy to see him the
next day.

"That's rather like giving herself airs!" he thought. "And
considering what we--" But after all, she plainly had not
expected him, and he took the refusal quietly. Nevertheless
he resolved not to go next day. "These cursed women--
there's not an inch of straight grain in 'em!" he said.

Let us follow the train of Mr. Henchard's thought as if it
were a clue line, and view the interior of High-Place Hall
on this particular evening.

On Elizabeth-Jane's arrival she had been phlegmatically
asked by an elderly woman to go upstairs and take off her
things. She replied with great earnestness that she would
not think of giving that trouble, and on the instant
divested herself of her bonnet and cloak in the passage.
She was then conducted to the first floor on the landing,
and left to find her way further alone.

The room disclosed was prettily furnished as a boudoir or
small drawing-room, and on a sofa with two cylindrical
pillows reclined a dark-haired, large-eyed, pretty woman, of
unmistakably French extraction on one side or the other.
She was probably some years older than Elizabeth, and had a
sparkling light in her eye. In front of the sofa was a
small table, with a pack of cards scattered upon it faces
upward.

The attitude had been so full of abandonment that she
bounded up like a spring on hearing the door open.

Perceiving that it was Elizabeth she lapsed into ease, and
came across to her with a reckless skip that innate grace
only prevented from being boisterous.

"Why, you are late," she said, taking hold of Elizabeth-
Jane's hands.

"There were so many little things to put up."

"And you seem dead-alive and tired. Let me try to enliven
you by some wonderful tricks I have learnt, to kill time.
Sit there and don't move." She gathered up the pack of
cards, pulled the table in front of her, and began to deal
them rapidly, telling Elizabeth to choose some.

"Well, have you chosen?" she asked flinging down the last
card.

"No," stammered Elizabeth, arousing herself from a reverie.
"I forgot, I was thinking of--you, and me--and how strange
it is that I am here."

Miss Templeman looked at Elizabeth-Jane with interest, and
laid down the cards. "Ah! never mind," she said. "I'll lie
here while you sit by me; and we'll talk."

Elizabeth drew up silently to the head of the sofa, but with
obvious pleasure. It could be seen that though in years she
was younger than her entertainer in manner and general
vision she seemed more of the sage. Miss Templeman
deposited herself on the sofa in her former flexuous
position, and throwing her arm above her brow--somewhat in
the pose of a well-known conception of Titian's--talked up
at Elizabeth-Jane invertedly across her forehead and arm.

"I must tell you something," she said. "I wonder if you
have suspected it. I have only been mistress of a large
house and fortune a little while."

"Oh--only a little while?" murmured Elizabeth-Jane, her
countenance slightly falling.

"As a girl I lived about in garrison towns and elsewhere
with my father, till I was quite flighty and unsettled. He
was an officer in the army. I should not have mentioned
this had I not thought it best you should know the truth."

"Yes, yes." She looked thoughtfully round the room--at the
little square piano with brass inlayings, at the window-
curtains, at the lamp, at the fair and dark kings and queens
on the card-table, and finally at the inverted face of
Lucetta Templeman, whose large lustrous eyes had such an odd
effect upside down.

Elizabeth's mind ran on acquirements to an almost morbid
degree. "You speak French and Italian fluently, no doubt,"
she said. "I have not been able to get beyond a wretched
bit of Latin yet."

"Well, for that matter, in my native isle speaking French
does not go for much. It is rather the other way."

"Where is your native isle?"

It was with rather more reluctance that Miss Templeman said,
"Jersey. There they speak French on one side of the street
and English on the other, and a mixed tongue in the middle
of the road. But it is a long time since I was there. Bath
is where my people really belong to, though my ancestors in
Jersey were as good as anybody in England. They were the Le
Sueurs, an old family who have done great things in their
time. I went back and lived there after my father's death.
But I don't value such past matters, and am quite an English
person in my feelings and tastes."

Lucetta's tongue had for a moment outrun her discretion.
She had arrived at Casterbridge as a Bath lady, and there
were obvious reasons why Jersey should drop out of her life.
But Elizabeth had tempted her to make free, and a
deliberately formed resolve had been broken.

It could not, however, have been broken in safer company.
Lucetta's words went no further, and after this day she was
so much upon her guard that there appeared no chance of her
identification with the young Jersey woman who had been
Henchard's dear comrade at a critical time. Not the least
amusing of her safeguards was her resolute avoidance of a
French word if one by accident came to her tongue more
readily than its English equivalent. She shirked it with
the suddenness of the weak Apostle at the accusation, "Thy
speech bewrayeth thee!"

Expectancy sat visibly upon Lucetta the next morning. She
dressed herself for Mr. Henchard, and restlessly awaited his
call before mid-day; as he did not come she waited on
through the afternoon. But she did not tell Elizabeth that
the person expected was the girl's stepfather.

They sat in adjoining windows of the same room in Lucetta's
great stone mansion, netting, and looking out upon the
market, which formed an animated scene. Elizabeth could see
the crown of her stepfather's hat among the rest beneath,
and was not aware that Lucetta watched the same object with
yet intenser interest. He moved about amid the throng, at
this point lively as an ant-hill; elsewhere more reposeful,
and broken up by stalls of fruit and vegetables.

The farmers as a rule preferred the open carrefour for
their transactions, despite its inconvenient jostlings and
the danger from crossing vehicles, to the gloomy sheltered
market-room provided for them. Here they surged on this one
day of the week, forming a little world of leggings,
switches, and sample-bags; men of extensive stomachs,
sloping like mountain sides; men whose heads in walking
swayed as the trees in November gales; who in conversing
varied their attitudes much, lowering themselves by
spreading their knees, and thrusting their hands into the
pockets of remote inner jackets. Their faces radiated
tropical warmth; for though when at home their countenances
varied with the seasons, their market-faces all the year
round were glowing little fires.

All over-clothes here were worn as if they were an
inconvenience, a hampering necessity. Some men were well
dressed; but the majority were careless in that respect,
appearing in suits which were historical records of their
wearer's deeds, sun-scorchings, and daily struggles for many
years past. Yet many carried ruffled cheque-books in their
pockets which regulated at the bank hard by a balance of
never less than four figures. In fact, what these gibbous
human shapes specially represented was ready money--money
insistently ready--not ready next year like a nobleman's--
often not merely ready at the bank like a professional
man's, but ready in their large plump hands.

It happened that to-day there rose in the midst of them all
two or three tall apple-trees standing as if they grew on
the spot; till it was perceived that they were held by men
from the cider-districts who came here to sell them,
bringing the clay of their county on their boots.
Elizabeth-Jane, who had often observed them, said, "I wonder
if the same trees come every week?"

"What trees?" said Lucetta, absorbed in watching for
Henchard.

Elizabeth replied vaguely, for an incident checked her.
Behind one of the trees stood Farfrae, briskly discussing a
sample-bag with a farmer. Henchard had come up,
accidentally encountering the young man, whose face seemed
to inquire, "Do we speak to each other?"

She saw her stepfather throw a shine into his eye which
answered "No!" Elizabeth-Jane sighed.

"Are you particularly interested in anybody out there?" said
Lucetta.

"O, no," said her companion, a quick red shooting over her
face.

Luckily Farfrae's figure was immediately covered by the
apple-tree.

Lucetta looked hard at her. "Quite sure?" she said.

"O yes," said Elizabeth-Jane.

Again Lucetta looked out. "They are all farmers, I
suppose?" she said.

"No. There's Mr. Bulge--he's a wine merchant; there's
Benjamin Brownlet--a horse dealer; and Kitson, the pig
breeder; and Yopper, the auctioneer; besides maltsters, and
millers--and so on." Farfrae stood out quite distinctly now;
but she did not mention him.

The Saturday afternoon slipped on thus desultorily. The
market changed from the sample-showing hour to the idle hour
before starting homewards, when tales were told. Henchard
had not called on Lucetta though he had stood so near. He
must have been too busy, she thought. He would come on
Sunday or Monday.

The days came but not the visitor, though Lucetta repeated
her dressing with scrupulous care. She got disheartened.
It may at once be declared that Lucetta no longer bore
towards Henchard all that warm allegiance which had
characterized her in their first acquaintance, the then
unfortunate issue of things had chilled pure love
considerably. But there remained a conscientious wish to
bring about her union with him, now that there was nothing
to hinder it--to right her position--which in itself was a
happiness to sigh for. With strong social reasons on her
side why their marriage should take place there had ceased
to be any worldly reason on his why it should be postponed,
since she had succeeded to fortune.

Tuesday was the great Candlemas fair. At breakfast she said
to Elizabeth-Jane quite coolly: "I imagine your father may
call to see you to-day. I suppose he stands close by in the
market-place with the rest of the corn-dealers?"

She shook her head. "He won't come."

"Why?"

"He has taken against me," she said in a husky voice.

"You have quarreled more deeply than I know of."

Elizabeth, wishing to shield the man she believed to be her
father from any charge of unnatural dislike, said "Yes."

"Then where you are is, of all places, the one he will
avoid?"

Elizabeth nodded sadly.

Lucetta looked blank, twitched up her lovely eyebrows and
lip, and burst into hysterical sobs. Here was a disaster--
her ingenious scheme completely stultified.

"O, my dear Miss Templeman--what's the matter?" cried her
companion.

"I like your company much!" said Lucetta, as soon as she
could speak.

"Yes, yes--and so do I yours!" Elizabeth chimed in
soothingly.

"But--but--" She could not finish the sentence, which was,
naturally, that if Henchard had such a rooted dislike for
the girl as now seemed to be the case, Elizabeth-Jane would
have to be got rid of--a disagreeable necessity.

A provisional resource suggested itself. "Miss Henchard--
will you go on an errand for me as soon as breakfast is
over?--Ah, that's very good of you. Will you go and order--
" Here she enumerated several commissions at sundry shops,
which would occupy Elizabeth's time for the next hour or
two, at least.

"And have you ever seen the Museum?"

Elizabeth-Jane had not.

"Then you should do so at once. You can finish the morning
by going there. It is an old house in a back street--I
forget where--but you'll find out--and there are crowds of
interesting things--skeletons, teeth, old pots and pans,
ancient boots and shoes, birds' eggs--all charmingly
instructive. You'll be sure to stay till you get quite
hungry."

Elizabeth hastily put on her things and departed. "I wonder
why she wants to get rid of me to-day!" she said sorrowfully
as she went. That her absence, rather than her services or
instruction, was in request, had been readily apparent to
Elizabeth-Jane, simple as she seemed, and difficult as it
was to attribute a motive for the desire.

She had not been gone ten minutes when one of Lucetta's
servants was sent to Henchard's with a note. The contents
were briefly:--


DEAR MICHAEL,--You will be standing in view of my house to-
day for two or three hours in the course of your business,
so do please call and see me. I am sadly disappointed that
you have not come before, for can I help anxiety about my
own equivocal relation to you?--especially now my aunt's
fortune has brought me more prominently before society? Your
daughter's presence here may be the cause of your neglect;
and I have therefore sent her away for the morning. Say you
come on business--I shall be quite alone.

LUCETTA.


When the messenger returned her mistress gave directions
that if a gentleman called he was to be admitted at once,
and sat down to await results.

Sentimentally she did not much care to see him--his delays
had wearied her, but it was necessary; and with a sigh she
arranged herself picturesquely in the chair; first this way,
then that; next so that the light fell over her head. Next
she flung herself on the couch in the cyma-recta curve which
so became her, and with her arm over her brow looked towards
the door. This, she decided, was the best position after
all, and thus she remained till a man's step was heard on
the stairs. Whereupon Lucetta, forgetting her curve (for
Nature was too strong for Art as yet), jumped up and ran and
hid herself behind one of the window-curtains in a freak of
timidity. In spite of the waning of passion the situation
was an agitating one--she had not seen Henchard since his
(supposed) temporary parting from her in Jersey.

She could hear the servant showing the visitor into the
room, shutting the door upon him, and leaving as if to go
and look for her mistress. Lucetta flung back the curtain
with a nervous greeting. The man before her was not
Henchard.



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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